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第15节 卡瓦尔康蒂少校 【
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文章摘要:卡瓦尔康蒂少校 ,栩栩工具包骨瘦形销,威鹏避孕方法同意。

基督山伯爵以少校马上来访为借口推辞了阿尔贝的邀请,重庆时时彩五星定胆:但他和巴浦斯汀所说的确是实情。七点钟刚敲过,也就是在贝尔图乔受命到欧特伊去的两小时以后,一辆出租马车在大厦门前停了下来,等乘客在门口下车以后,立刻就急匆匆地驶开了,象是感到羞于做这项差使似的。从马车上下来的那个人是位年约五十二岁的男子,身穿一件在欧洲流行了很久的那种绿底绣着黑青蛙的外套。他的裤子是用蓝布做的,皮鞋非常干净,但擦得并不很亮,而且鞋跟略微太显厚了一点儿;戴着鹿皮手套;一顶有点儿象宪兵常戴的那种帽子和一条黑白条纹的领结。这个领结如果不是主人爱惜的话,原本可以不用了。这位漂亮人物拉动香榭丽舍大道三十号门上的门铃,问基督山伯爵阁下是不是住这儿,在得到门房是的答复以后,他便进门,顺手带上门,开始踏上台阶。

来人的头部既小且瘦,头发雪白,长着灰色浓密的胡须。

等候在大厅里的巴浦斯汀不费力气地就认出这位等待着的来客,因为对于他的容貌,他事先已得到详细的通告。所以,不等这位陌生客通报他的姓名,伯爵就已接到了通报,知道他到了。他被领进一间朴素高雅的会客厅里,伯爵面带笑容地起身来迎接他。“啊,我亲爱的先生,欢迎之至,我正恭候您呢。”

“大人真的在等候我吗?”那位意大利人说道。

“是的,我接到通知,知道今天七点钟您来这儿。”

“那么,至于我来的事,您已接到详细通知了吗?”

“当然喽。”

“啊,那就好了,我特别怕这个程序给忘记了呢。”

“什么程序?”

“就是把我要来的情况事先通知您。”

“不,不,没有忘记。”

“但您确信您没有弄错吗?”

“我确信如此。”

“大人今天晚上七点钟等候的真是我吗?”

“我可以向您证明,您完全不必怀疑。”

“噢,不,不用了,”那意大利人说道,“不必麻烦了。”

“是的,是的,”基督山说道。他的客人似乎稍稍有点不安。“我想想看,”伯爵说道,“您不是巴陀罗米奥·卡瓦尔康蒂侯爵阁下吗?”

“巴陀罗米奥·卡瓦尔康蒂,”那意大利人高兴地答道,“是的,我确实就是他。”

“前奥地利驻军中的少校?”

“我是位少校吗?”那老军人怯生生地问道。

“是的,”基督山说道,“您是位少校,您在意大利的职位就相当法国的少校。”

“好极了,”少校说道,“我不需要您多说了,您知道”

“您今天的访问不是您自己的意思。”基督山说道。

“不是,当然不是。”

“是别人要您来信?”

“是的。”

“是那位好心肠的布沙尼神甫吧?”

“一点不错。”少校快活地说道。

“您带了封信来吧?”

“是的,这就是。”

“那么,请给我吧。”基督山接过那封信,拆开来看。少校一对大眼睛凝视着伯爵,然后把房间里的情形察看了一眼。

他的凝视几乎很快又回到房间主人的身上。“是的,是的,对了。‘卡瓦尔康蒂少校,一位可敬的卢卡贵族,佛罗伦萨卡瓦尔康蒂族后裔,’”基督山大声往下念着,“‘每年收入五十万。’”基督山从信纸上把眼睛抬起来,鞠了一躬。“五十万,”他说,“可观!”

“五十万,是吗?”少校说。

“是的,信上是这么说的,这一定没有假,因为神甫对于欧洲所有的大富翁的财产都了如指掌。”

“那么,就算五十万吧。但说老实话,我倒没想到有那么多。”

“因为您的管家在跟您捣鬼。那方面您必须得改进一下。”

“您让我开了窍,”那位意大利人郑重地说,“我该请那位先生开路。”

基督山继续读着那封信:“‘他生平只有一件不如意的事。’”

“是的,的确,只有一件!”少校说,并叹息了一声。

“‘就是失掉了一个爱子。’”

“失掉了一个爱子!”

“‘是在他幼年时代让他家里的仇人或吉卜赛人拐走的。’”

“那时他才五岁!”少校两眼望着天,深深地叹了口气说。

“不幸的父亲!”基督山伯爵说,然后继续念道,“‘我给他以再生的希望,向他保证,说你有办法可以给他找回那个他毫无结果地寻找了十五年的儿子。’”少校带着一种无法形容的焦急的神色望伯爵。“这种事我有办法。”基督山说。

少校恢复了他的自持。“呵,呵!”他说,“那么这封信从头到尾都是真的了?”

“您不相信吗,巴陀罗米奥先生?”

“我,当然,当然相信。象布沙尼神甫这样一个担任教职的好人不可能骗人,也不可能跟人开玩笑,可大人还没有念完呢。”

“啊,对!”基督山说,“还有一句附言。”

“是的,是的,”少校跟着说,“还——有——一——句——附——言。”

“‘为了不麻烦卡瓦尔康蒂少校从他的银行提款,我送了他一张两千法郎的支票给他用作旅费,另外再请他向你提取你欠我的那笔四万八千法郎。’”

少校一脸焦急的神色一直持续到那句附言读完。

“好极了。”伯爵说。

“他说‘好极了,’”少校心中自语,“那么——阁下——”他答道。

“那么什么?”基督山问。

“那么那句附言——”

“哦!那么附言怎么样?”

“那么那句附言您也象那封信的正文一样可以接受吗?”

“当然喽,布沙尼神甫和我有点关系。我记不得到底是不是还欠着他四万八。可我敢说,我们不会因其中的差额起纠纷的。那么,您对于这句附言觉得很重要吗,我亲爱的卡瓦尔康蒂先生?”

“我必须得向您解释一下,”少校说,“因为十分信任布沙尼神甫的签字,我自己并没有另带着钱来,所以如果这笔钱保证不了的话,我在巴黎的情形就要很不好过了。”

“象您这么有身份的一位人物怎么可能在一个地方受窘呢?”基督山说。

“哦,说真话,我一个人都不认识。”少校说。

“但人家总认识您的吧?”

“是的,人家认识我,那么”

“请说吧,我亲爱的卡瓦尔康蒂先生。”

“那么您可以把这四万八千里弗付给我的了?”

“当然啦,随便您什么时候要都可以。”少校的眼睛惊喜地睁得圆圆的。“但请坐,”基督山说,“真的,我不知道自己脑子里想了些什么,竟让您站在那儿一刻钟。”

“没关系。”少校拖过一把圈椅,自己坐下了。

“现在,”伯爵说,“您想吃点儿什么东西吗?来一杯红葡萄酒,白葡萄酒,还是阿利坎特葡萄酒?”

“阿利坎特葡萄酒吧,如果不麻烦的话,我喜欢喝这种酒。”

“我有几瓶上好的。您用饼干下酒好不好?”

“好的。我吃点饼干,多谢您这样周到。”

基督山拉了拉铃,巴浦斯汀出现了。伯爵向他迎上去。

“怎么样?”他低声说道。

“那个青年来了。”贴身跟班也低声说道。

“你把他领到哪一个房间去了?”

“照大人的吩咐,在那间蓝客厅里。”

“对了,现在去拿一瓶阿利坎特葡萄酒和几块饼干来。”

巴浦斯汀走了出去。

“真的,”少校说,“这样打扰您,实在于心不安。”

“小事一桩,何足挂齿。”伯爵说。

巴浦斯汀拿了酒和饼干进来。伯爵把一只杯子斟满,但在另一只杯子里,他只把这种红宝石色的液体滴了几滴。酒瓶上满是蛛丝,还有其他种种比一个人脸上的皱纹更确切地证明这确是陈年好酒。少校也十分聪明地拿了那只斟满的酒杯和一块饼干。伯爵叫巴浦斯汀把那只盘子放在他的客人旁边,客人就带着一种很满意的表情啜了一口阿利坎特酒,然后又津津有味地把他的饼干在葡萄酒里蘸了蘸。

“哦,先生,您长住在卢卡是不是?您又有钱又高贵,又受人尊敬——凡是使一个人快乐的条件,您都具有了?”

“都具有了,”少校说,急忙吞下他的饼干,“真是都具有了。”

“您就缺少一样东西,否则就十全十美了,是不是?”

“就缺少一样东西。”那意大利人说。

“而那样东西就是您那个失踪的孩子!”

“唉,”少校拿起第二块饼干说,“那的确是我的一件憾事。”这位可敬的少校两眼望天,叹息了一声。

“尽管告诉我,那么,”伯爵说,“您这样痛惜的令郎,究竟是谁呢?因为我老是以为您还是一个单身汉。”

“一般都是那么说,先生,”少校说,“而我”

“是的,”伯爵答道,“而且您还故意证实那种谣传。我想,您当然是打算掩饰青年时代的一次不检点,免得社会上传得纷纷扬扬?”

少校的神色又复原了,重新装出他那种一贯的从容不迫,同时垂下他的眼睛,大概是想借此恢复他面部的表情或帮助他想象;他时不时朝伯爵偷看上一眼,但伯爵的嘴角上依然挂着那种温和的好奇的微笑。

“是的,”少校说,“我的确希望这种过失能瞒过所有人。”

“起因当然不能怪您,”基督山答道,“因为象您这样的人是不会犯这种过失的。”

“噢,不,当然不能怪我。”少校说着,微笑着摇摇头。

“得怪那位做母亲的?”伯爵说道。

“是的,得怪那位做母亲的——他那个可怜的母亲!”少校说道,并拿起第三块饼干。

“再喝一点酒,我亲爱的卡瓦尔康蒂,”伯爵一面说,一面给他倒第二杯阿利坎特葡萄酒,“您太激动啦。”

“他那可怜的母亲!”少校吞吞吐吐地说着,尽量想让他的意志完全控制住自己的泪腺,以使便出一滴假眼泪来润湿他的眼角。

“我想,她出身于意大利第一流家庭吧,是不是?”

“她的家庭是费沙尔的贵族,伯爵阁下。”

“她的名字是叫——”

“您想知道她的名字吗?”

“噢,”基督山说,“您告诉我也多余,因为我已经知道了。”

“伯爵阁下是无所不知的。”那意大利人说,并鞠了一躬。

“奥丽伐·高塞奈黎,对不对?”

“奥丽伐·高塞奈黎!”

“一位侯爵的小姐?”

“一位侯爵的小姐!”

“而您不顾她家庭的反对,总算娶到了她?”

“是的,我娶到了她。”

“您肯定把那各种文件都带来了吧?”基督山说。

“什么文件?”

“您和奥丽伐·高塞奈黎结婚的证书,你们的孩子的出生登记证。”

“我孩子的出生登记证?”

“安德烈·卡瓦尔康蒂的出生登记证——令郎的名字不是叫安德烈吗?”

“我想是的。”少校说。

“什么!您‘想’是的?”

“我不敢十分确定,因为他已经失踪了这么长时间了。”

“那倒也是,”基督山说。“那么您把文件都带来了吗?”

“伯爵阁下,说来十分抱歉,因为不知道非要用那些文件,所以我一时疏忽,忘了把它们带来了。”

“那就很不好办了。”基督山答道。

“那么,它们非要不可吗?”

“它们是必不可少的呀。”

少校用手抹了一抹他的额头。“哎呀,糟了,必不可少!”

“当然是这样,说不定这儿会有人怀疑到你们结婚的正当性或者你们孩子的合法性!”

“没错,”少校说,“可能会有人怀疑的。”

“倘若如此,您那个孩子的处境可就非常不乐观了。”

“那时他极其不利。”

“或许那会让他错过一门很好的亲事。”

“太糟了!”

“您必须知道,在法国,他们对这些是很看重的。象在意大利那样跑到教士那儿去说‘我们彼此相爱,请您给我们证婚’那是不行的。在法国,结婚是一件公事,正式结婚必须有无懈可击的证明文件。”

“那真不幸,我可没有这些必需的文件。”

“幸好,我有。”基督山说。

“您?”

“是的。”

“您有那些文件?”

“我有那些文件。”

“啊,真的!”少校说,他眼见着他此次旅行的目的要因缺乏那些文件而落空,也深怕他的健忘或许会使那四万八千里弗产生麻烦,“啊,真的,那就太走运了,是的,实在走运,因为我从来就没想到要把它们带来。”

“我一点都不奇怪。一个人不能面面俱到呀!幸亏布沙尼长神甫您想到了。”

“他真是个好人!”

“他非常谨慎,想得极其周到。”

“他真是一个值得钦佩的人,”少校说,“他把它们送到您这儿了吗?”

“这就是。”

“少校紧握双手,表示钦佩。

“您是在凯铁尼山圣·保罗教堂里和奥丽伐·高塞奈黎结婚的,这是教士的证书。”

“是的,没错,是这个。”那位意大利人惊诧地望着说。

“这是安德烈·卡瓦尔康蒂的受洗登记证,是塞拉维柴的教士出具的。”

“完全不错。”

“那么,拿走这些证件吧,不关我的事了。您可以把它们交给令郎,令郎自然要小心保存起来。”

“我想他一定会的!如果他遗失了”

“嗯,如果他遗失了怎么办呢?”基督山说。

“那么,”少校答道,“就必需得去抄一份副本,又得拖一些时间才能弄到手。”

“这事就难办了。”基督山说道。

“几乎是不可能办的。”少校回答。

“我很高兴看到您懂得这些文件的价值。”

“我认为它们是无价之宝。”

“哦,”基督山说,“至于那青年人的母亲——”

“至于那青年人的母亲——”那位意大利人焦急地照着重复了一遍。

“至于高塞奈黎侯爵小姐——”

“真的,”少校说,好象觉得眼前突然又冒出问题来了,“难道还得她来作证吗?”

“不,先生,”基督山答道,“而且,她不是已经——对自然偿清了最后的一笔债了吗?”

“唉!是的。”那意大利人回答。

“我知道,”基督山说,“她已经去世十年了。”

“而我现在才追悼她的不幸早逝!”少校悲叹着说,然后从他的口袋里掏出一块格子花纹的手帕,先抹抹右眼,然后又抹抹左眼。

“您还想怎么样呢?”基督山说,“大家都难逃一死。现在您要明白,我亲爱的卡瓦尔康蒂先生,您在法国不必告诉别人说您曾和令郎分离过十五年。吉卜赛人拐小孩这种故事在世界的这个区域并不经常发生,不会有人相信。您曾送他到某个省的某所大学去读书,现在您希望他在巴黎社交界来完成他的教育。为了这个理由,您才不得下暂时离开维亚雷焦,自从您的太太去世以后,您就一直住在那儿。这些就够了。”

“您是这样看吗?”

“当然啦。”

“好极了,那么。”

“如果他们听到了那次分离的事——”

“啊,对了,我怎么说呢?”

“有一个奸诈的家庭教师,让府上的仇人买通——”

“让高塞奈黎家族方面吗?”

“一点不错,他拐走了这个孩子,想让府上这一家族绝后。”

“这很说得过去,因为他是个独子。”

“好,现在一切都说妥了,这些又唤起的往事现在不要轻易忘记了。您肯定已经猜到我已经为您准备好一件意想不到的事了吧?”

“是件大喜事吧?”那意大利人问道。

“啊,我知道一个做父亲的眼睛和他的心一样是不容易被骗过的。”

“嘿!”少校说。

“有人把秘密告诉您了吧,或者您大概已猜到他在这儿了吧。”

“谁在这儿?”

“你的孩子——您的儿子——您的安德烈!”

“我的确猜到了,”少校带着尽可能从容的神气回答。“那么他在这儿了吗?”

“他来了,”基督山说道,“刚才我的贴身跟班进来的时候,他告诉我他已经来了。”

“啊!好极了!好极了!”少校说着,他每喊一声,就抓一抓他上衣上的纽扣。

“我亲爱的先生,”基督山说道,“我理解你这种感情,您需要有些时间来适应您自己。我可以用这点时间去让那个青年人准备好这一场想念已久的会见,因为我想他内心的急切也不亚于您呢。”

“这我可以想象得到。”卡瓦尔康蒂说道。

“好吧,一刻钟之内,您就可以和他在一起了。”

“那么您还用带他来吗?您难道还要亲自带他来见我吗?您真是太好啦!”

“不,我不想来插到你们父子之间。你们单独见面吧。但不必紧张,即使父子之间的本能不提示您,您也弄不错的。他一会儿从这扇门进来。他是个很好看的青年人,肤色很白——也许太白了一点——性格很活泼,您一会儿就可以看到他了,还是您自己来判断吧。”

“慢着点儿,”少校说,“您知道我只有布沙尼神甫送给我的那两千法郎,这笔款子我已经花在旅费上了,所以”

“所以您要钱用,那是当然的事,亲爱的卡瓦尔康蒂先生。嗯,这儿先付您八千法郎。”

少校的眼睛里奕奕闪光。

“现在我只欠您四万法郎了。”基督山说。

“大人要收条吗?”少校说着,一面把钱塞进他上装里面的口袋里。

“要收条干什么?”伯爵说。

“我想您或许要把它拿给布沙尼神甫看。”

“哦,您收到余下的四万法郎之后,给我一张整数的收条就行。我们都是君子,不必这么斤斤计较。”

“啊,是的,确实如此,”少校说道,“我们都是君子。”

“还有一件事。”基督山说。

“请说吧。”

“您可以允许我提个建议吗?”

“当然,我求之不得。”

“那么我劝您别再穿这种样式的衣服吧。”

“真的!”少校说,带着很满意的神气望望他自己。

“是的。在维亚雷焦的时候兴许可以穿它,但这种服装,不论它本身多么高雅,在巴黎早已过时了。”

“那真倒霉。”

“噢,如果您真的爱穿您这种旧式衣服,在您离开巴黎的时候可以再换上。”

“可我穿什么好呢?”

“您的皮箱里有什么衣服?”

“我的皮箱里?我只带了一个旅行皮包。”

“我肯定您的确没有带别的东西来。一个人何必带那么多东西来给自己添麻烦呢?而且,象您这样的一位老军人在出门的时候,总是喜欢尽可能地少带行李的。”

“就是因为这个我才——”

“但您是一个谨慎又有远见的人,所以您事先派人把您的行李运来。现在已经运到黎希留路太子旅馆了。您就住在那儿。”

“那么在那些箱子里——”

“我想您已经吩咐您的贴身跟班把您大概需要用的衣服都放进去了——您的便服和制服。逢到大场面,您必须穿上您的制服,看起来才威严。别忘了佩上您的勋章。法国人虽然还在嘲笑勋章,但总还是把它们戴在身上。”

“好极了!好极了!”少校喜不自禁地说。

“现在,”基督山说,“您已经做好了准备,不会再兴奋过度了,我亲爱的卡瓦尔康蒂先生,请等着和您那个失散的安德烈团聚吧。”

说着,基督山鞠了一躬,退到门帷后面,让少校自个儿沉浸在狂喜里。
 

BOTH THE COUNT and Baptistin had told the truth when they announced to Morcerf the proposed visit of the major, which had served Monte Cristo as a pretext for declining Albert's invitation. Seven o'clock had just struck, and M. Bertuccio, according to the command which had been given him, had two hours before left for Auteuil, when a cab stopped at the door, and after depositing its occupant at the gate, immediately hurried away, as if ashamed of its employment. The visitor was about fifty-two years of age, dressed in one of the green surtouts, ornamented with black frogs, which have so long maintained their popularity all over Europe. He wore trousers of blue cloth, boots tolerably clean, but not of the brightest polish, and a little too thick in the soles, buckskin gloves, a hat somewhat resembling in shape those usually worn by the gendarmes, and a black cravat striped with white, which, if the proprietor had not worn it of his own free will, might have passed for a halter, so much did it resemble one. Such was the picturesque costume of the person who rang at the gate, and demanded if it was not at No. 30 in the Avenue des Champs-Elysées that the Count of Monte Cristo lived, and who, being answered by the porter in the affirmative, entered, closed the gate after him, and began to ascend the steps.

The small and angular head of this man, his white hair and thick gray mustaches, caused him to be easily recognized by Baptistin, who had received an exact description of the expected visitor, and who was awaiting him in the hall. Therefore, scarcely had the stranger time to pronounce his name before the count was apprised of his arrival. He was ushered into a simple and elegant drawing-room, and the count rose to meet him with a smiling air. "Ah, my dear sir, you are most welcome; I was expecting you."

"Indeed," said the Italian, "was your excellency then aware of my visit?"

"Yes; I had been told that I should see you to-day at seven o'clock."

"Then you have received full information concerning my arrival?"

"Of course."

"Ah, so much the better, I feared this little precaution might have been forgotten."

"What precaution?"

"That of informing you beforehand of my coming."

"Oh, no, it has not."

"But you are sure you are not mistaken."

"Very sure."

"It really was I whom your excellency expected at seven o'clock this evening?"

"I will prove it to you beyond a doubt."

"Oh, no, never mind that," said the Italian; "it is not worth the trouble."

"Yes, yes," said Monte Cristo. His visitor appeared slightly uneasy. "Let me see," said the count; "are you not the Marquis Bartolomeo Cavalcanti?"

"Bartolomeo Cavalcanti," joyfully replied the Italian; "yes, I am really he."

"Ex-major in the Austrian service?"

"Was I a major?" timidly asked the old soldier.

"Yes," said Monte Cristo "you were a major; that is the title the French give to the post which you filled in Italy."

"Very good," said the major, "I do not demand more, you understand"--

"Your visit here to-day is not of your own suggestion, is it?" said Monte Cristo.

"No, certainly not."

"You were sent by some other person?"

"Yes."

"By the excellent Abbé Busoni?"

"Exactly so," said the delighted major.

"And you have a letter?"

"Yes, there it is."

"Give it me, then;" and Monte Cristo took the letter, which he opened and read. The major looked at the count with his large staring eyes, and then took a survey of the apartment, but his gaze almost immediately reverted to the proprietor of the room. "Yes, yes, I see. 'Major Cavalcanti, a worthy patrician of Lucca, a descendant of the Cavalcanti of Florence,'" continued Monte Cristo, reading aloud, "'possessing an income of half a million.'" Monte Cristo raised his eyes from the paper, and bowed. "Half a million," said he, "magnificent!"

"Half a million, is it?" said the major.

"Yes, in so many words; and it must be so, for the abbé knows correctly the amount of all the largest fortunes in Europe."

"Be it half a million. then; but on my word of honor, I had no idea that it was so much."

"Because you are robbed by your steward. You must make some reformation in that quarter."

"You have opened my eyes," said the Italian gravely; "I will show the gentlemen the door." Monte Cristo resumed the perusal of the letter:--

"'And who only needs one thing more to make him happy.'"

"Yes, indeed but one!" said the major with a sigh.

"'Which is to recover a lost and adored son.'"

"A lost and adored son!"

"'Stolen away in his infancy, either by an enemy of his noble family or by the gypsies.'"

"At the age of five years!" said the major with a deep sigh, and raising his eye to heaven.

"Unhappy father," said Monte Cristo. The count continued:--

"'I have given him renewed life and hope, in the assurance that you have the power of restoring the son whom he has vainly sought for fifteen years.'" The major looked at the count with an indescribable expression of anxiety. "I have the power of so doing," said Monte Cristo. The major recovered his self-possession. "So, then," said he, "the letter was true to the end?"

"Did you doubt it, my dear Monsieur Bartolomeo?"

"No, indeed; certainly not; a good man, a man holding religious office, as does the Abbé Busoni, could not condescend to deceive or play off a joke; but your excellency has not read all."

"Ah, true," said Monte Cristo "there is a postscript."

"Yes, yes," repeated the major, "yes--there--is--a--postscript."

"'In order to save Major Cavalcanti the trouble of drawing on his banker, I send him a draft for 2,000 francs to defray his travelling expenses, and credit on you for the further sum of 48,000 francs, which you still owe me.'" The major awaited the conclusion of the postscript, apparently with great anxiety. "Very good," said the count.

"He said 'very good,'" muttered the major, "then--sir"--replied he.

"Then what?" asked Monte Cristo.

"Then the postscript"--

"Well; what of the postscript?"

"Then the postscript is as favorably received by you as the rest of the letter?"

"Certainly; the Abbé Busoni and myself have a small account open between us. I do not remember if it is exactly 48,000 francs, which I am still owing him, but I dare say we shall not dispute the difference. You attached great importance, then, to this postscript, my dear Monsieur Cavalcanti?"

"I must explain to you," said the major, "that, fully confiding in the signature of the Abbé Busoni, I had not provided myself with any other funds; so that if this resource had failed me, I should have found myself very unpleasantly situated in Paris."

"Is it possible that a man of your standing should be embarrassed anywhere?" said Monte Cristo.

"Why, really I know no one," said the major.

"But then you yourself are known to others?"

"Yes, I am known, so that"--

"Proceed, my dear Monsieur Cavalcanti."

"So that you will remit to me these 48,000 francs?"

"Certainly, at your first request." The major's eyes dilated with pleasing astonishment. "But sit down," said Monte Cristo; "really I do not know what I have been thinking of--I have positively kept you standing for the last quarter of an hour."

"Don't mention it." The major drew an arm-chair towards him, and proceeded to seat himself.

"Now," said the count, "what will you take--a glass of port, sherry, or Alicante?"

"Alicante, if you please; it is my favorite wine."

"I have some that is very good. You will take a biscuit with it, will you not?"

"Yes, I will take a biscuit, as you are so obliging."

Monte Cristo rang; Baptistin appeared. The count advanced to meet him. "Well?" said he in a low voice. "The young man is here," said the valet de chambre in the same tone.

"Into what room did you take him?"

"Into the blue drawing-room, according to your excellency's orders."

"That's right; now bring the Alicante and some biscuits."

Baptistin left the room. "Really," said the major, "I am quite ashamed of the trouble I am giving you."

"Pray don't mention such a thing," said the count. Baptistin re-entered with glasses, wine, and biscuits. The count filled one glass, but in the other he only poured a few drops of the ruby-colored liquid. The bottle was covered with spiders' webs, and all the other signs which indicate the age of wine more truly than do wrinkles on a man's face. The major made a wise choice; he took the full glass and a biscuit. The count told Baptistin to leave the plate within reach of his guest, who began by sipping the Alicante with an expression of great satisfaction, and then delicately steeped his biscuit in the wine.

"So, sir, you lived at Lucca, did you? You were rich, noble, held in great esteem--had all that could render a man happy?"

"All," said the major, hastily swallowing his biscuit, "positively all."

"And yet there was one thing wanting in order to complete your happiness?"

"Only one thing," said the Italian.

"And that one thing, your lost child."

"Ah," said the major, taking a second biscuit, "that consummation of my happiness was indeed wanting." The worthy major raised his eyes to heaven and sighed.

"Let me hear, then," said the count, "who this deeply regretted son was; for I always understood you were a bachelor."

"That was the general opinion, sir," said the major, "and I" --

"Yes," replied the count, "and you confirmed the report. A youthful indiscretion, I suppose, which you were anxious to conceal from the world at large?" The major recovered himself, and resumed his usual calm manner, at the same time casting his eyes down, either to give himself time to compose his countenance, or to assist his imagination, all the while giving an under-look at the count, the protracted smile on whose lips still announced the same polite curiosity. "Yes," said the major, "I did wish this fault to be hidden from every eye."

"Not on your own account, surely," replied Monte Cristo; "for a man is above that sort of thing?"

"Oh, no, certainly not on my own account," said the major with a smile and a shake of the head.

"But for the sake of the mother?" said the count.

"Yes, for the mother's sake--his poor mother!" cried the major, taking a third biscuit.

"Take some more wine, my dear Cavalcanti," said the count, pouring out for him a second glass of Alicante; "your emotion has quite overcome you."

"His poor mother," murmured the major, trying to get the lachrymal gland in operation, so as to moisten the corner of his eye with a false tear.

"She belonged to one of the first families in Italy, I think, did she not?"

"She was of a noble family of Fiesole, count."

"And her name was"--

"Do you desire to know her name?"--

"Oh," said Monte Cristo "it would be quite superfluous for you to tell me, for I already know it."

"The count knows everything," said the Italian, bowing.

"Oliva Corsinari, was it not?"

"Oliva Corsinari."

"A marchioness?"

"A marchioness."

"And you married her at last, notwithstanding the opposition of her family?"

"Yes, that was the way it ended."

"And you have doubtless brought all your papers with you?" said Monte Cristo.

"What papers?"

"The certificate of your marriage with Oliva Corsinari, and the register of your child's birth."

"The register of my child's birth?"

"The register of the birth of Andrea Cavalcanti--of your son; is not his name Andrea?"

"I believe so," said the major.

"What? You believe so?"

"I dare not positively assert it, as he has been lost for so long a time."

"Well, then," said Monte Cristo "you have all the documents with you?"

"Your excellency, I regret to say that, not knowing it was necessary to come provided with these papers, I neglected to bring them."

"That is unfortunate," returned Monte Cristo.

"Were they, then, so necessary?"

"They were indispensable."

The major passed his hand across his brow. "Ah, per Bacco, indispensable, were they?"

"Certainly they were; supposing there were to be doubts raised as to the validity of your marriage or the legitimacy of your child?"

"True," said the major, "there might be doubts raised."

"In that case your son would be very unpleasantly situated."

"It would be fatal to his interests."

"It might cause him to fail in some desirable matrimonial alliance."

"O peccato!"

"You must know that in France they are very particular on these points; it is not sufficient, as in Italy, to go to the priest and say, 'We love each other, and want you to marry us.' Marriage is a civil affair in France, and in order to marry in an orthodox manner you must have papers which undeniably establish your identity."

"That is the misfortune! You see I have not these necessary papers."

"Fortunately, I have them, though," said Monte Cristo.

"You?"

"Yes."

"You have them?"

"I have them."

"Ah, indeed?" said the major, who, seeing the object of his journey frustrated by the absence of the papers, feared also that his forgetfulness might give rise to some difficulty concerning the 48,000 francs--"ah, indeed, that is a fortunate circumstance; yes, that really is lucky, for it never occurred to me to bring them."

"I do not at all wonder at it--one cannot think of everything; but, happily, the Abbé Busoni thought for you."

"He is an excellent person."

"He is extremely prudent and thoughtful"

"He is an admirable man," said the major; "and he sent them to you?"

"Here they are."

The major clasped his hands in token of admiration. "You married Oliva Corsinari in the church of San Paolo del Monte-Cattini; here is the priest's certificate."

"Yes indeed, there it is truly," said the Italian, looking on with astonishment.

"And here is Andrea Cavalcanti's baptismal register, given by the curate of Saravezza."

"All quite correct."

"Take these documents, then; they do not concern me. You will give them to your son, who will, of course, take great care of them."

"I should think so, indeed! If he were to lose them"--

"Well, and if he were to lose them?" said Monte Cristo.

"In that case," replied the major, "it would be necessary to write to the curate for duplicates, and it would be some time before they could be obtained."

"It would be a difficult matter to arrange," said Monte Cristo.

"Almost an impossibility," replied the major.

"I am very glad to see that you understand the value of these papers."

"I regard them as invaluable."

"Now," said Monte Cristo "as to the mother of the young man" --

"As to the mother of the young man"--repeated the Italian, with anxiety.

"As regards the Marchesa Corsinari"-- "Really," said the major, "difficulties seem to thicken upon us; will she be wanted in any way?"

"No, sir," replied Monte Cristo; "besides, has she not"--

"Yes, sir," said the major, "she has"--

"Paid the last debt of nature?"

"Alas, yes," returned the Italian.

"I knew that," said Monte Cristo; "she has been dead these ten years."

"And I am still mourning her loss," exclaimed the major, drawing from his pocket a checked handkerchief, and alternately wiping first the left and then the right eye.

"What would you have?" said Monte Cristo; "we are all mortal. Now, you understand, my dear Monsieur Cavalcanti, that it is useless for you to tell people in France that you have been separated from your son for fifteen years. Stories of gypsies, who steal children, are not at all in vogue in this part of the world, and would not be believed. You sent him for his education to a college in one of the provinces, and now you wish him to complete his education in the Parisian world. That is the reason which has induced you to leave Via Reggio, where you have lived since the death of your wife. That will be sufficient."

"You think so?"

"Certainly."

"Very well, then."

"If they should hear of the separation"--

"Ah, yes; what could I say?"

"That an unfaithful tutor, bought over by the enemies of your family"--

"By the Corsinari?"

"Precisely. Had stolen away this child, in order that your name might become extinct."

"That is reasonable, since he is an only son."

"Well, now that all is arranged, do not let these newly awakened remembrances be forgotten. You have, doubtless, already guessed that I was preparing a surprise for you?"

"An agreeable one?" asked the Italian.

"Ah, I see the eye of a father is no more to be deceived than his heart."

"Hum!" said the major.

"Some one has told you the secret; or, perhaps, you guessed that he was here."

"That who was here?"

"Your child--your son--your Andrea!"

"I did guess it," replied the major with the greatest possible coolness. "Then he is here?"

"He is," said Monte Cristo; "when the valet de chambre came in just now, he told me of his arrival."

"Ah, very well, very well," said the major, clutching the buttons of his coat at each exclamation.

"My dear sir," said Monte Cristo, "I understand your emotion; you must have time to recover yourself. I will, in the meantime, go and prepare the young man for this much-desired interview, for I presume that he is not less impatient for it than yourself."

"I should quite imagine that to be the case," said Cavalcanti.

"Well, in a quarter of an hour he shall be with you."

"You will bring him, then? You carry your goodness so far as even to present him to me yourself?"

"No; I do not wish to come between a father and son. Your interview will be private. But do not be uneasy; even if the powerful voice of nature should be silent, you cannot well mistake him; he will enter by this door. He is a fine young man, of fair complexion--a little too fair, perhaps--pleasing in manners; but you will see and judge for yourself."

"By the way," said the major, "you know I have only the 2,000 francs which the Abbé Busoni sent me; this sum I have expended upon travelling expenses, and"--

"And you want money; that is a matter of course, my dear M. Cavalcanti. Well, here are 8,000 francs on account."

The major's eyes sparkled brilliantly.

"It is 40,000 francs which I now owe you," said Monte Cristo.

"Does your excellency wish for a receipt?" said the major, at the same time slipping the money into the inner pocket of his coat.

"For what?" said the count.

"I thought you might want it to show the Abbé Busoni."

"Well, when you receive the remaining 40,000, you shall give me a receipt in full. Between honest men such excessive precaution is, I think, quite unnecessary."

"Yes, so it is, between perfectly upright people."

"One word more," said Monte Cristo.

"Say on."

"You will permit me to make one remark?"

"Certainly; pray do so."

"Then I should advise you to leave off wearing that style of dress."

"Indeed," said the major, regarding himself with an air of complete satisfaction.

"Yes. It may be worn at Via Reggio; but that costume, however elegant in itself, has long been out of fashion in Paris."

"That's unfortunate."

"Oh, if you really are attached to your old mode of dress; you can easily resume it when you leave Paris."

"But what shall I wear?"

"What you find in your trunks."

"In my trunks? I have but one portmanteau."

"I dare say you have nothing else with you. What is the use of boring one's self with so many things? Besides an old soldier always likes to march with as little baggage as possible."

"That is just the case--precisely so."

"But you are a man of foresight and prudence, therefore you sent your luggage on before you. It has arrived at the H?tel des Princes, Rue de Richelieu. It is there you are to take up your quarters."

"Then, in these trunks"--

"I presume you have given orders to your valet de chambre to put in all you are likely to need,--your plain clothes and your uniform. On grand occasions you must wear your uniform; that will look very well. Do not forget your crosses. They still laugh at them in France, and yet always wear them, for all that."

"Very well, very well," said the major, who was in ecstasy at the attention paid him by the count.

"Now," said Monte Cristo, "that you have fortified yourself against all painful excitement, prepare yourself, my dear M. Cavalcanti, to meet your lost Andrea." Saying which Monte Cristo bowed, and disappeared behind the tapestry, leaving the major fascinated beyond expression with the delightful reception which he had received at the hands of the count.
 



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