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第17节 幽会 【
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本文地址:http://www.yeidj.com.cn/book/story.php?id=611
文章摘要:幽会 ,洁净度卷甲倍道横征苛敛,三头六证衔环结草爱屋及乌。

现在请本书的读者务必允许我们再把你引领到维尔福先生屋后的那块儿园地上。在那扇半隐在大栗树后面的门外,重庆时时彩五星定胆:我们将可以见到几位我们相识的人物。这次是马西米兰先到。他耐心地在等候一个人影从树丛里出来,焦急地等着石子路上发出轻巧的脚步声,那盼望已久的声音终于听到了,他本来只等一个人,但他却觉察到有两个人在向他走过来。瓦朗蒂娜的迟到得怪腾格拉尔夫人和欧热妮的拜访,她们的拜访超出了她所预想的时间。于是,为了表示不失信于马西米兰,她向腾格拉尔小姐建议,邀她到花园里去散一次步,以此表明她的迟来虽然肯定要令他感到烦恼,但却并不是她自己过错。

那位青年以爱情的直觉,立刻明白了她这种无可奈何的境况,心里很感安慰。而且,虽然她避免来到晤谈的范围以内,瓦朗蒂娜却做得很巧妙,可以使马西米兰看到她走来走去;而每一次走过的时候,她总要设法趁她同伴不注意向青年投来一个情意绵绵的眼光,象是在说:“耐心一点!你看出这不是我的错。”马西米兰很善于忍耐,于是就在心里比较着这两位姑娘来消磨时间——一个肤色白晰,有一对水汪汪温柔的眼睛,温雅地微微弯着身体,象一棵垂着的杨柳;另外一个肤色略黑,富有一种严峻傲慢的表情,身子挺直,象一棵白杨树。不消说,在青年的眼里,瓦朗蒂娜当然不会相形见绌。约莫半小时以后,小姐们回去了,马西米兰知道腾格拉尔小姐的访问终于已告一段落。不到几分钟,瓦朗蒂娜一个人又走进花园里来。因为怕别人注意到她回来,她走得很慢,并不立刻直接走近门边,而是先在一张凳子上坐下来,小心地向四周看了看,确定没有人在监视她后,立刻起身,急忙忙地向门口走来。

“晚上好,瓦朗蒂娜。”一个声音说。

“晚上好,马西米兰。我让你等了一些时间,但你已经看出我迟到的原因了。”

“是的,我认得腾格拉尔小姐。但我不知道你和她这么密切。”

“谁跟你说我们很密切,马西米兰?”

“没有谁告诉我,看起来你们好象是这样。从你们边走边谈的那种样子上看来,别人家以为你们是两个在那儿互诉秘密的女学生呢。”

“我们刚才谈了一番心事,”瓦朗蒂娜答道。“她对我说她不愿意和马尔塞夫先生结婚,而我也向她承认:我一想到要嫁给伊皮奈先生,就感到那么的痛苦。”

“可爱的瓦朗蒂娜!”

“这可以向你表明为什么你能看到我和欧热妮之间有那种坦率的态度,这是因为在谈到我不爱的那个人的时候,我想到了我所爱的那个人。”


“啊,你是多么尽善尽美呀,瓦朗蒂娜!你有一种决不等同于腾格拉尔小姐的气质!就是那种无法言说的娇柔。而这种娇柔对于一个女人,正好象香气对于花和美味对于果子一样,美并不是我们对于花和果所要求的唯一的东西。”

“这是你心里的爱让你对一切产生这种看法。”

“不,瓦朗蒂娜,我向你保证。你们在花园里散步的时候,我把你们两个人都观察了一番,凭良心说,虽然我丝毫不想故意贬低腾格拉尔小姐的美,但我没法理解有什么男子能真的爱她。”

“那是因为,正如你所说的,马西米兰,我在那儿的缘故。因为有我在旁边,你就不公平啦。”

“不,但告诉我——这纯粹是一个因为我好奇的问题,因为在我脑子里出现了一些和腾格拉尔小姐有关的念头,所以才问的——”

“噢,一定是些非常不公平的念头,我用不着问就知道了。在你们批评我们这些可怜女子的时候,我们不用想得到宽容。”

“至少你不能否认,你们自己互相批评的时候,也是非常苛刻的。”

“如果我们苛刻,那是因为我们一般总是在激动的情绪之下进行批评的。不过说说你的问题吧。”

“腾格拉尔小姐这次反对和马尔塞夫先生结婚,是不是因为另有所爱的缘故?”

“我已经跟你说,我和欧热妮算不上十分亲密。”

“是的,但小姐们用不着十分亲密就可以互诉心事。还是承认吧,你的确向她问过这个问题吧。啊,你在那儿笑啦。”

“大概你已经知道那一段谈话了吧,我们和你就隔了这一道木板,它可保不住什么秘密。”

“嘿,她怎么说?”

“她对我说她谁都不管,”瓦朗蒂娜说,“她一想到结婚就讨厌。她宁可永远过一种无拘无束的独立生活。她几乎还希望她父亲破产,那样她也许可以象她的朋友罗茜·亚密莱小姐那样当上一名艺术家。”

“啊,你看——”

“嗯,你想到了什么念头?”瓦朗蒂娜问。

“没有什么。”马西米兰微笑着回答。

“那么你为什么要笑呢?”

“咦,你自己把眼睛盯着我的呀。”

“你要我走吗?”

“啊,不,不!我们谈谈你吧。”

“对了,我们在一起的时间最多还剩下十分钟了。”

“天哪!”马西米兰大失所望地说,瓦朗蒂娜用一种忧郁的口吻说,“我对你不过是一个可怜的朋友。可怜的马西米兰,你本来命中注定是该享福的,但你过的都是一种什么样的生活呵!我常常责备我自己,我向你保证。”

“哦,那有什么关系,瓦朗蒂娜?只要我自己愿意不就得啦。我甚至都想:虽然这种长期没结果的情形很叫我痛苦,但只要和你相处上五分钟,或者从你的嘴里听上两句话,我就感到心满意足。而且我也深信:上帝既然造了两颗象我们这样和谐的心,几乎还奇迹般的把这两颗心联在一起,它不会最后又把我们分开的。”

“这几句话说得真好,我谢谢你。我们两个人都心怀希望吧,马西米兰,这可以让我快乐一点。”

“瓦朗蒂娜,你这样匆匆地要离开我,到底还有什么事?”

“我不知道。维尔福夫人派人来请我去,说她要跟我谈谈,而且这次谈话关系到我的一部分财产。叫他们把我的财产拿去吧,我已经太富有啦,也许他们拿走以后,我就可以平平静静地过日子了。如果我穷了,你还是会这样爱我吧,是不是,马西米兰?”

“噢,我会永远爱你。只要我的瓦朗蒂娜在我的身边,而且我能确实感到没有什么人可以再把她从我手里夺走,贫富对我又有什么要紧的呢?但你不担心这次谈话大概会和你的婚事有关吗?”

“我不这样想。”

“现在,听我说,瓦朗蒂娜,什么都不必怕,因为只要我活着,除你之外,我决不会再爱别的人。”

“你说这句话是想让我觉着踏实吗,马西米兰?”

“原谅我,你说得对——我真笨。哦,我是想告诉你,那天我遇到了马尔塞夫先生。”

“嗯?”

“你知道,弗兰兹先生是他的朋友。”

“那又怎么样?”

“马尔塞夫先生接到弗兰兹的一封信,说他很快就要回来了。”

瓦朗蒂娜的脸变得煞白,她倚到门上防止跌倒。“这能是真的吗?维尔福夫人是为这件事来叫我的吗?不,这种消息好象不会要她来通知我。”

“为什么不会?”

“因为——我也不知道为什么——但看来维尔福夫人暗地里反对这件婚事,虽然她并没有公开表示反对。”

“是吗?那么我觉得我简直该崇拜维尔福夫人的了。”

“别这样忙着去崇拜她。”瓦朗蒂娜面带忧郁的微笑着说。

“如果她反对你嫁给伊皮奈先生,她多半是愿意另提别的亲事呀。”

“不要那么想,马西米兰。维尔福夫人并不是挑剔男方,她压根儿反对结婚。”

“反对结婚!如果她那么讨厌结婚,她自己为什么要结婚呢?”

“你没有理解我的意思,马西米兰。大约在一年以前,我谈起过要到修道院去,维尔福夫人虽然说了很多她认为出于责任非说不可的话,但暗底里却赞成那个建议。我的父亲在她的怂恿之下也同意了,只是为了我那位可怜的祖父,我才最后放弃了那个计划,你绝对想象不到当那位老人家望着我的时候,他的眼睛里流露出怎样的一种表情——他在这个世界上只爱我一个人,而我也敢说只有我一个人爱他。当他听说我的决定的时候,我永远忘不了他那种责备的眼光,和两行珠子般流到他那僵硬的脸颊上的无比绝望的泪水。啊,马西米兰,我当时多么懊悔不该产生那种想法,所以我跪到他的脚下,喊道:‘原谅我,请原谅我,我亲爱的爷爷,不论他们怎样对待我,我永远不离开您了。’我说完以后,他感激地抬起头,可没有说一句话。啊,马西米兰,我大概还得受许多罪,但我觉得我祖父当时的目光已够弥补一切遗憾了。”

“可爱的瓦朗蒂娜,你是个天使。我真的不知道象我这么一个在沙漠里东征西剿,以砍杀阿拉伯人为业的人——除非上帝真的认为他们是该死的异教徒——我不知道我有什么值得得到上帝优待的地方,他把你托付给我。但告诉我,你不结婚对维尔福夫人能有什么好处呢?”

“我不是告诉过你我很有钱,太有钱了吗,马西米兰?我从我的母亲身上可以继承到五万里弗左右的收入。我的外祖父和外祖母,就是圣·梅朗侯爵夫妇,也可以给我同样大数目的钱,而诺瓦蒂埃先生很明显也想立我做他的继承人。我的弟弟爱德华,他的母亲没有什么东西可以遗赠给他,所以和我一比,他就困难多了。嗯,维尔福夫人疼爱那个孩子象一块心头肉,如果我做了修女,我的全部财产就归到父亲所有了——他可以继承侯爵夫妇和我的财产——再经他转给他儿子。”

“啊!真不可思议,一个这样年轻美丽的女人竟会这样贪心。”

“她倒也不是为了她自己,而是为了她的儿子。你认为那是一种罪恶,但从母爱用度看,这还是一种美德呢。”

“可你不能妥协一下,分一部分你的财产给她的儿子吗?”

“我怎么能提出这样的一项建议呢,特别是对一个总自认为对金钱毫无兴趣的女人?”

“瓦朗蒂娜,我从来把我们的爱当作一个神圣的东西。所以我拿恭敬的幕布把它包裹起来,藏在我灵魂的最深处,没有哪一个人知道它的存在,甚至我的妹妹也不知道。瓦朗蒂娜,你准不准许我向一个朋友透露我对你的爱,跟他结一个莫逆之交?”

瓦朗蒂娜吃了一惊。“一个朋友,马西米兰,这个朋友是谁?我有点担心。”

“听我说,瓦朗蒂娜。你有没有在那个人身上感受到过一种强烈的同情心?虽然只是第一次见到他,你却感觉好象已经和他相识已久。你会在心里不断地问到底以前是在什么时候和什么地方跟他结识的,而虽然再也想不起那时间和地点,但你却依然相信以前肯定有过这么一次经历,而这种同情心只不过是一种旧事重现心头而已?”

“是这样。”

“嗯,当我第一次看到那个怪人的时候,我心里的感觉正是那样。”

“怪人,你说?”

“是的。”

“那么,你认识他挺长时间了吗?”

“不过有八九天吧。”

“你难道竟把一个才认识了八九天的人当作你的朋友吗?啊,马西米兰,我希望你不是把朋友这个称号的价值定得再高一点吧。”

“从逻辑上说你是对的,瓦朗蒂娜。但不论你说什么,我绝不能拒绝这种本能而来的情感。我相信我未来的一切幸福一定和这个人有联系——有时候,他那一对洞察一切的眼睛似乎已预见到了一切,而他那双有力的手好象在驱动所有一切的实现。”

“那么他肯定是一位预言家了。”瓦朗蒂娜微笑着说。

“一点不错!”马西米兰说,“我常常不由自主相信他有预言本领——特别是预言好消息。”

“啊!”瓦朗蒂娜带着一种忧伤的口气说,“让我见见这个人好吗,马西米兰,他大概可以告诉我到底能不能获得我所需要的爱,来补偿我经受的那么多痛苦。”

“我可怜的姑娘!你已经认识他啦。”

“我认识他?”

“是的,救你的后母和她儿子的性命的就是他。”

“基督山伯爵?”

“正是他。”

“啊!”瓦朗蒂娜喊道,“他是维尔福夫人的好朋友,绝不可能再做我的朋友了。”

“维尔福夫人的朋友!绝不可能,我想你一定弄错了。”

“不,我一点儿没有弄错,因为我可以向你保证,他干预我们家务的威力简直大得无边。我的后母谄媚他,把他看成一部集人类所有智慧于一身的百科全书。我的父亲敬佩他,说他以前从没听见有人以这样雄辩的论调表达过如此崇高的人生观。爱德华崇拜他,他虽然怕伯爵那一对乌溜溜的大眼睛,但只要伯爵一到,他就会跑上去迎接他,扳开他的手,在那两只手里,他肯定能找到一件好玩的礼物——基督山先生对我们家里的每一个人好象都有一种神秘的、几乎不可抗拒的控制力。”

“如果真是如此,我亲爱的瓦朗蒂娜,那么你一定也已感觉到了或者用不多久就会感觉到他的出现的好处。他在意大利遇到阿尔贝·马尔塞夫,他把他从强盗那里解救了出来。他去见腾格拉尔夫人,送了她一件高贵的礼物。你的后母和她的儿子经过他的门前,他的黑奴救了他们的性命。这个人显然拥有控制力。我从来没见过其他人能象他这样把朴实和华丽调和得这样和谐。他的笑是如此甜蜜,在他向我微笑的时候,我想象不出他的笑对其他人是苦涩的。啊,瓦朗蒂娜,告诉我,他有没有那么对你笑过?如果有的话,放心吧,你就要快乐了。”

“我!”青年女郎说,“他连瞟都不瞟我一眼呢,正相反,如果我偶而碰见他,他好象倒要故意避开我。啊,他并不宽宏大量,他也没有你所说的那种非凡的智慧——因为,如果他有的话,他就会看出我的不幸。如果他真宽宏大量的话,看到我这么忧闷和孤独,他就会使用他的力量来帮助我幸福。再者,如果象你所说的,他象太阳一样,他就会拿一缕赋予生命的光芒来温暖我的心。你说他爱你,马西米兰,你怎么了解他的动机?人们对象你这么一位挂着一把长长的指挥刀、蓄着一脸威猛小胡子的军官总是很尊敬的,但认为欺负我这样一个只会哭泣可怜的姑娘是没什么了不起的。”

“啊,瓦朗蒂娜,我肯定你弄错了。”

“如果不如此的话,如果他对我使用外交手腕——就是说,如果他是那种为了最终可以获得支配权力而先是用各种手段来取得全家每一个成员的外交家的话——他就会,哪怕一次也好,赐给我那种你绝口称颂的微笑。可是不,他看出我很不快乐,他知道我对他毫无用处,所以他一点都不注意我。谁知道呢?也许为了要讨好维尔福夫人和我的父亲,他都可以尽可能地迫害我。他不应该这样不把我放到眼里,这是不公平的,毫无理由的。啊,原谅我,”瓦朗蒂娜说,她注意到了她的话在马西米兰心里产生的影响,“我不好,我的心里根本就没有那个人的一点儿痕迹,信口批评了他一通。我不否认他有你所说的那种力量,也不否认我也感到过那种力量的存在,但从我这方面说,与其说那种力量能带来什么好处,还不如说它能带来祸害更确切些。”

“好了,瓦朗蒂娜,”莫雷尔叹了一口气说,“我们不再讨论这件事情了吧。我什么都不跟他说就是了。”

“唉!”瓦朗蒂娜说,“我知道我让你很痛苦。噢,我希望有一天能握着你的手请你原谅。但我的确对他抱着并不是毫无根据的偏见。告诉我,这位基督山伯爵给了你什么好处?”

“我得说你这个问题很叫我为难,瓦朗蒂娜,因为我说不出伯爵给我过什么明显的好处。可是,就象我已经跟你说过的,我对他有一种油然生发的爱,这种爱的来源我没法向你解释。太阳给了我什么好处没有?没有,它用它的光芒温暖了我,因为有了它的光芒,我可以看见你,如此而已。再譬如,某种花的香味给我什么好处了没有?没有,它的香味令我的嗅觉感到很舒适——如果有人问我为什么要赞美它,我只能如此的说。我对他的友情跟他对我的一样不可思议,一样说不出一个所以然来。一个隐约的声音好象在向对我耳语,说这一次突然的邂逅一定不是偶然的。在他最简单的举止上和他最深层的思想里,我发觉都和我有什么关系,你也许要取笑我,但我告诉你,自从我认识了这个人以来,我就有了一个荒唐的念头,觉着我所遇到过的一切好运都是由他创造出来的。你会说,没有这种佑护我也活过了三十年了,是不是?没有关系——但等一等,且让我举一个例子。他请我星期六到他那儿去吃饭,在他,这不过是一件极其自然的事情。好,后来我又听到了什么消息?这次请客,你的母亲和维尔福先生都要来。我将在那儿见到他们。谁知道这样的会见以后会带来怎样的好处呢?这种事情表面上看最简单不过,但我却从中看出一些惊人的意义,从中得到了一种奇怪的信心。我对我自己说,这位奇人表面上好象是为了大家,而实际上是有意为我做的安排,让我有机会会一会维尔福先生夫妇的。我也承认,有时候我都想从他的眼睛里去探究他到底是否已经猜透了我们的秘密恋爱。”

“我的好朋友,”瓦朗蒂娜说,“要是我老是听你这样没头没脑的说话,我真的要为你的理性担心,把你看做一个幻想家了。这一次会面,除了纯粹巧合以外,你真不能看出什么别的意义来吗?请稍微想一想。我的父亲从来不出门,他几次都想谢绝这个邀请。维尔福夫人却正相反,她特别想去看看这位奇怪富翁家里的情形,费了老大的劲儿才说服我的父亲陪她一起去。不,不!我前面说的话并没有错,马西米兰,除了你和我那个略强于僵尸一点的祖父以外,我在这个世界上再没有人可求助了。”

“从逻辑上讲,我知道你是对的,”马西米兰说,“你那甜蜜的话音平常对我是那么有魅力,但今天却没有说服我。”

“可你的话也没有说服我,”瓦朗蒂娜说,“我必须说,如果你不能给我更有说服力的证据——”

“我还有一个证据,”玛西米兰迟迟疑疑地说,“但是——的确,瓦朗蒂娜,我自己也不得不承认它比第一个理由更要荒唐。”

“那就糟了。”瓦朗蒂娜微笑着说。

“我对于这件事还没有断定。十年的军旅生活教给我相信,有时我的想法要靠突如其来的灵感所决定,因为那种神秘的冲动好几次救了我的命,它使我往右或往左躲开,那致命的枪弹因而就从我的身边擦身而过。”

“亲爱的马西米兰,你为什么不把你的死里逃生归功于我的祈祷呢?当你不在的时候,我就不再为我自己祈祷了,只是一个劲儿地为你祷求平安。”

“是的,自从你认识了我以后确实如此,”莫雷尔微笑着说,“但那可不能适用于我们还没认识的时候呀,瓦朗蒂娜。”

“你这个人真叫人恼火,一点都不肯相信我的话,不过我还是听听你自己都认为是荒唐的第二个证据吧。”

“嗯,从这个缺口往那边看,你可以看到那匹我骑到这儿来的那匹新买的骏马。”

“啊,这匹马真健壮呵!”瓦朗蒂娜喊道,“你干吗不把它牵到门边来呢!我可以和它说说话,它会明白我的。”

“你看,它是一匹非常名贵的牲口,”马西米兰说。“嗯,你知道我的手头并不宽裕,而且素有‘理智人’之称。我到一个马贩子那儿去,看到了这匹漂亮的马。我给它起好名子叫米狄亚。我问要什么价钱,他们说要四千五百法郎。所以我就只好打肖这个心思了,这你可以想象得到。但我得说我走开的时候心里很沉重,因为那匹马十分友好地望着我,用它的头在我的身上摩来蹭去,而且当我骑在它身上的时候,它又用最讨好的姿态一个接一个地腾跃。当天晚上,几个朋友来看我——夏多·勒诺先生、德布雷先生,还有五六个你连名字都没听说过的绅士。他们提议打牌。我是从来不玩牌的,因为我既没有多少钱可输,也穷不到想去赢别人的钱来花。但他们是在我的家里,你知道,所以总好叫人去拿牌一点儿办法都没有,就在他们在桌子旁边坐下来的时候,基督山先生到了。他也在他们中间坐了一个位子,大家于是玩起来,结果我赢了。说来真有点不好意思,我竟然赢了五千法郎。到午夜我们才分手。我捺住心头的喜悦,就跳上一辆轻便马车,快马加鞭,驶到马贩子那儿。我兴奋地一个劲拉门铃。来开门的那个人一定以为我是个疯子,因为我不由分说冲到马厩里。米狄亚正站在马槽前吃草,我马上把鞍子和辔勒套上去,而它也极其温顺地由我摆布,于是把四千五百法郎放到那莫名其妙的马贩子手里,我就驰向香榭丽舍大道,要在那儿跑一夜马,以了却我的心愿。当我骑马走过伯爵门前的时候,我看到有一个窗口里还透着灯光,而且我好象看到了他的影子在窗帘后面闪动。哦,瓦朗蒂娜,我一点不含糊地相信他知道我想得到这匹马,他故意输钱给我好让我去买它的。”

“我亲爱的马西米兰,你真的太喜欢幻想了,你不会爱我很长久的。一个生活在这种诗情画意和幻想世界中的男子,对于我们这种平淡无奇的往来一定觉得刺激太少了。他们在叫我啦。你听到没有?”

“啊,瓦朗蒂娜!’马西米兰说,“从这个栅栏口伸只手指给我,让我亲一亲。”

“马西米兰,我们说好的,我们只应该把我们自己看作是两个声音,两个影子。”

“随你便吧,瓦朗蒂娜。”

“如果我让你如愿以偿,你高兴吗?”

“噢,当然喽!”

瓦朗蒂娜走到门沿上,不但把她的一个手指,而且把她的整只手都从缺口伸过去,马西米兰发出一声惊喜的叫声,跳将上去,抓住那只手,在那只手上做了一个狂热深长的吻。那只小手于是立刻缩了回去,这位年轻人看到瓦朗蒂娜急急地向屋里跑去,好象她都要被她自己的情感冲动吓坏了似的。
 

OUR READERS must now allow us to transport them again to the enclosure surrounding M. de Villefort's house, and, behind the gate, half screened from view by the large chestnut-trees, which on all sides spread their luxuriant branches, we shall find some people of our acquaintance. This time Maximilian was the first to arrive. He was intently watching for a shadow to appear among the trees, and awaiting with anxiety the sound of a light step on the gravel walk. At length, the long-desired sound was heard, and instead of one figure, as he had expected, he perceived that two were approaching him. The delay had been occasioned by a visit from Madame Danglars and Eugénie, which had been prolonged beyond the time at which Valentine was expected. That she might not appear to fail in her promise to Maximilian, she proposed to Mademoiselle Danglars that they should take a walk in the garden, being anxious to show that the delay, which was doubtless a cause of vexation to him, was not occasioned by any neglect on her part. The young man, with the intuitive perception of a lover, quickly understood the circumstances in which she was involuntarily placed, and he was comforted. Besides, although she avoided coming within speaking distance, Valentine arranged so that Maximilian could see her pass and repass, and each time she went by, she managed, unperceived by her companion, to cast an expressive look at the young man, which seemed to say, "Have patience! You see it is not my fault." And Maximilian was patient, and employed himself in mentally contrasting the two girls,--one fair, with soft languishing eyes, a figure gracefully bending like a weeping willow; the other a brunette, with a fierce and haughty expression, and as straight as a poplar. It is unnecessary to state that, in the eyes of the young man, Valentine did not suffer by the contrast. In about half an hour the girls went away, and Maximilian understood that Mademoiselle Danglars' visit had at last come to an end. In a few minutes Valentine re-entered the garden alone. For fear that any one should be observing her return, she walked slowly; and instead of immediately directing her steps towards the gate, she seated herself on a bench, and, carefully casting her eyes around, to convince herself that she was not watched, she presently arose, and proceeded quickly to join Maximilian.

"Good-evening, Valentine," said a well-known voice.

"Good-evening, Maximilian; I know I have kept you waiting, but you saw the cause of my delay."

"Yes, I recognized Mademoiselle Danglars. I was not aware that you were so intimate with her."

"Who told you we were intimate, Maximilian?" "No one, but you appeared to be so. From the manner in which you walked and talked together, one would have thought you were two school-girls telling your secrets to each other."

"We were having a confidential conversation," returned Valentine; "she was owning to me her repugnance to the marriage with M. de Morcerf; and I, on the other hand, was confessing to her how wretched it made me to think of marrying M. d'Epinay."

"Dear Valentine!"

"That will account to you for the unreserved manner which you observed between me and Eugénie, as in speaking of the man whom I could not love, my thoughts involuntarily reverted to him on whom my affections were fixed."

"Ah, how good you are to say so, Valentine! You possess a quality which can never belong to Mademoiselle Danglars. It is that indefinable charm which is to a woman what perfume is to the flower and flavor to the fruit, for the beauty of either is not the only quality we seek."

"It is your love which makes you look upon everything in that light."

"No, Valentine, I assure you such is not the case. I was observing you both when you were walking in the garden, and, on my honor, without at all wishing to depreciate the beauty of Mademoiselle Danglars, I cannot understand how any man can really love her."

"The fact is, Maximilian, that I was there, and my presence had the effect of rendering you unjust in your comparison."

"No; but tell me--it is a question of simple curiosity, and which was suggested by certain ideas passing in my mind relative to Mademoiselle Danglars"--

"I dare say it is something disparaging which you are going to say. It only proves how little indulgence we may expect from your sex," interrupted Valentine.

"You cannot, at least, deny that you are very harsh judges of each other."

"If we are so, it is because we generally judge under the influence of excitement. But return to your question."

"Does Mademoiselle Danglars object to this marriage with M. de Morcerf on account of loving another?"

"I told you I was not on terms of strict intimacy with Eugénie."

"Yes, but girls tell each other secrets without being particularly intimate; own, now, that you did question her on the subject. Ah, I see you are smiling."

"If you are already aware of the conversation that passed, the wooden partition which interposed between us and you has proved but a slight security."

"Come, what did she say?"

"She told me that she loved no one," said Valentine; "that she disliked the idea of being married; that she would infinitely prefer leading an independent and unfettered life; and that she almost wished her father might lose his fortune, that she might become an artist, like her friend, Mademoiselle Louise d'Armilly."

"Ah, you see"--

"Well, what does that prove?" asked Valentine.

"Nothing," replied Maximilian.

"Then why did you smile?"

"Why, you know very well that you are reflecting on yourself, Valentine."

"Do you want me to go away?"

"Ah, no, no. But do not let us lose time; you are the subject on which I wish to speak."

"True, we must be quick, for we have scarcely ten minutes more to pass together."

"Ma foi," said Maximilian, in consternation.

"Yes, you are right; I am but a poor friend to you. What a life I cause you to lead, poor Maximilian, you who are formed for happiness! I bitterly reproach myself, I assure you."

"Well, what does it signify, Valentine, so long as I am satisfied, and feel that even this long and painful suspense is amply repaid by five minutes of your society, or two words from your lips? And I have also a deep conviction that heaven would not have created two hearts, harmonizing as ours do, and almost miraculously brought us together, to separate us at last."

"Those are kind and cheering words. You must hope for us both, Maximilian; that will make me at least partly happy."

"But why must you leave me so soon?"

"I do not know particulars. I can only tell you that Madame de Villefort sent to request my presence, as she had a communication to make on which a part of my fortune depended. Let them take my fortune, I am already too rich; and, perhaps, when they have taken it, they will leave me in peace and quietness. You would love me as much if I were poor, would you not, Maximilian?"

"Oh, I shall always love you. What should I care for either riches or poverty, if my Valentine was near me, and I felt certain that no one could deprive me of her? But do you not fear that this communication may relate to your marriage?"

"I do not think that is the case."

"However it may be, Valentine, you must not be alarmed. I assure you that, as long as I live, I shall never love any one else!"

"You think to reassure me when you say that, Maximilian."

"Pardon me, you are right. I am a brute. But I was going to tell you that I met M. de Morcerf the other day."

"Well?"

"Monsieur Franz is his friend, you know."

"What then?"

"Monsieur de Morcerf has received a letter from Franz, announcing his immediate return." Valentine turned pale, and leaned her hand against the gate. "Ah heavens, if it were that! But no, the communication would not come through Madame de Villefort."

"Why not?"

"Because--I scarcely know why--but it has appeared as if Madame de Villefort secretly objected to the marriage, although she did not choose openly to oppose it."

"Is it so? Then I feel as if I could adore Madame de Villefort."

"Do not be in such a hurry to do that," said Valentine, with a sad smile.

"If she objects to your marrying M. d'Epinay, she would be all the more likely to listen to any other proposition."

"No, Maximilian, it is not suitors to which Madame de Villefort objects, it is marriage itself."

"Marriage? If she dislikes that so much, why did she ever marry herself?"

"You do not understand me, Maximilian. About a year ago, I talked of retiring to a convent. Madame de Villefort, in spite of all the remarks which she considered it her duty to make, secretly approved of the proposition, my father consented to it at her instigation, and it was only on account of my poor grandfather that I finally abandoned the project. You can form no idea of the expression of that old man's eye when he looks at me, the only person in the world whom he loves, and, I had almost said, by whom he is beloved in return. When he learned my resolution, I shall never forget the reproachful look which he cast on me, and the tears of utter despair which chased each other down his lifeless cheeks. Ah, Maximilian, I experienced, at that moment, such remorse for my intention, that, throwing myself at his feet, I exclaimed,--'Forgive me, pray forgive me, my dear grandfather; they may do what they will with me, I will never leave you.' When I had ceased speaking, he thankfully raised his eyes to heaven, but without uttering a word. Ah, Maximilian, I may have much to suffer, but I feel as if my grandfather's look at that moment would more than compensate for all."

"Dear Valentine, you are a perfect angel, and I am sure I do not know what I--sabring right and left among the Bedouins--can have done to merit your being revealed to me, unless, indeed, heaven took into consideration the fact that the victims of my sword were infidels. But tell me what interest Madame de Villefort can have in your remaining unmarried?"

"Did I not tell you just now that I was rich, Maximilian--too rich? I possess nearly 50,000 livres in right of my mother; my grandfather and my grandmother, the Marquis and Marquise de Saint-Méran, will leave me as much, and M. Noirtier evidently intends making me his heir. My brother Edward, who inherits nothing from his mother, will, therefore, be poor in comparison with me. Now, if I had taken the veil, all this fortune would have descended to my father, and, in reversion, to his son."

"Ah, how strange it seems that such a young and beautiful woman should be so avaricious."

"It is not for herself that she is so, but for her son, and what you regard as a vice becomes almost a virtue when looked at in the light of maternal love."

"But could you not compromise matters, and give up a portion of your fortune to her son?"

"How could I make such a proposition, especially to a woman who always professes to be so entirely disinterested?"

"Valentine, I have always regarded our love in the light of something sacred; consequently, I have covered it with the veil of respect, and hid it in the innermost recesses of my soul. No human being, not even my sister, is aware of its existence. Valentine, will you permit me to make a confidant of a friend and reveal to him the love I bear you?"

Valentine started. "A friend, Maximilian; and who is this friend? I tremble to give my permission."

"Listen, Valentine. Have you never experienced for any one that sudden and irresistible sympathy which made you feel as if the object of it had been your old and familiar friend, though, in reality, it was the first time you had ever met? Nay, further, have you never endeavored to recall the time, place, and circumstances of your former intercourse, and failing in this attempt, have almost believed that your spirits must have held converse with each other in some state of being anterior to the present, and that you are only now occupied in a reminiscence of the past?"

"Yes."

"Well, that is precisely the feeling which I experienced when I first saw that extraordinary man."

"Extraordinary, did you say?"

"Yes."

"You have known him for some time, then?"

"Scarcely longer than eight or ten days."

"And do you call a man your friend whom you have only known for eight or ten days? Ah, Maximilian, I had hoped you set a higher value on the title of friend."

"Your logic is most powerful, Valentine, but say what you will, I can never renounce the sentiment which has instinctively taken possession of my mind. I feel as if it were ordained that this man should be associated with all the good which the future may have in store for me, and sometimes it really seems as if his eye was able to see what was to come, and his hand endowed with the power of directing events according to his own will."

"He must be a prophet, then," said Valentine, smiling.

"Indeed," said Maximilian, "I have often been almost tempted to attribute to him the gift of prophecy; at all events, he has a wonderful power of foretelling any future good."

"Ah," said Valentine in a mournful tone, "do let me see this man, Maximilian; he may tell me whether I shall ever be loved sufficiently to make amends for all I have suffered."

"My poor girl, you know him already."

"I know him?"

"Yes; it was he who saved the life of your step-mother and her son."

"The Count of Monte Cristo?"

"The same."

"Ah," cried Valentine, "he is too much the friend of Madame de Villefort ever to be mine."

"The friend of Madame de Villefort! It cannot be; surely, Valentine, you are mistaken?"

"No, indeed, I am not; for I assure you, his power over our household is almost unlimited. Courted by my step-mother, who regards him as the epitome of human wisdom; admired by my father, who says he has never before heard such sublime ideas so eloquently expressed; idolized by Edward, who, notwithstanding his fear of the count's large black eyes, runs to meet him the moment he arrives, and opens his hand, in which he is sure to find some delightful present,--M. de Monte Cristo appears to exert a mysterious and almost uncontrollable influence over all the members of our family."

"If such be the case, my dear Valentine, you must yourself have felt, or at all events will soon feel, the effects of his presence. He meets Albert de Morcerf in Italy--it is to rescue him from the hands of the banditti; he introduces himself to Madame Danglars--it is that he may give her a royal present; your step-mother and her son pass before his door--it is that his Nubian may save them from destruction. This man evidently possesses the power of influencing events, both as regards men and things. I never saw more simple tastes united to greater magnificence. His smile is so sweet when he addresses me, that I forget it ever can be bitter to others. Ah, Valentine, tell me, if he ever looked on you with one of those sweet smiles? if so, depend on it, you will be happy."

"Me?" said the young girl, "he never even glances at me; on the contrary, if I accidentally cross his path, he appears rather to avoid me. Ah, he is not generous, neither does he possess that supernatural penetration which you attribute to him, for if he did, he would have perceived that I was unhappy; and if he had been generous, seeing me sad and solitary, he would have used his influence to my advantage, and since, as you say, he resembles the sun, he would have warmed my heart with one of his life-giving rays. You say he loves you, Maximilian; how do you know that he does? All would pay deference to an officer like you, with a fierce mustache and a long sabre, but they think they may crush a poor weeping girl with impunity."

"Ah, Valentine, I assure you you are mistaken."

"If it were otherwise--if he treated me diplomatically--that is to say, like a man who wishes, by some means or other, to obtain a footing in the house, so that he may ultimately gain the power of dictating to its occupants--he would, if it had been but once, have honored me with the smile which you extol so loudly; but no, he saw that I was unhappy, he understood that I could be of no use to him, and therefore paid no attention to me whatever. Who knows but that, in order to please Madame de Villefort and my father, he may not persecute me by every means in his power? It is not just that he should despise me so, without any reason. Ah, forgive me," said Valentine, perceiving the effect which her words were producing on Maximilian: "I have done wrong, for I have given utterance to thoughts concerning that man which I did not even know existed in my heart. I do not deny the influence of which you speak, or that I have not myself experienced it, but with me it has been productive of evil rather than good."

"Well, Valentine," said Morrel with a sigh, "we will not discuss the matter further. I will not make a confidant of him."

"Alas," said Valentine, "I see that I have given you pain. I can only say how sincerely I ask pardon for having griefed you. But, indeed, I am not prejudiced beyond the power of conviction. Tell me what this Count of Monte Cristo has done for you."

"I own that your question embarrasses me, Valentine, for I cannot say that the count has rendered me any ostensible service. Still, as I have already told you I have an instinctive affection for him, the source of which I cannot explain to you. Has the sun done anything for me? No; he warms me with his rays, and it is by his light that I see you--nothing more. Has such and such a perfume done anything for me? No; its odor charms one of my senses--that is all I can say when I am asked why I praise it. My friendship for him is as strange and unaccountable as his for me. A secret voice seems to whisper to me that there must be something more than chance in this unexpected reciprocity of friendship. In his most simple actions, as well as in his most secret thoughts, I find a relation to my own. You will perhaps smile at me when I tell you that, ever since I have known this man, I have involuntarily entertained the idea that all the good fortune which his befallen me originated from him. However, I have managed to live thirty years without this protection, you will say; but I will endeavor a little to illustrate my meaning. He invited me to dine with him on Saturday, which was a very natural thing for him to do. Well, what have I learned since? That your mother and M. de Villefort are both coming to this dinner. I shall meet them there, and who knows what future advantages may result from the interview? This may appear to you to be no unusual combination of circumstances; nevertheless, I perceive some hidden plot in the arrangement--something, in fact, more than is apparent on a casual view of the subject. I believe that this singular man, who appears to fathom the motives of every one, has purposely arranged for me to meet M. and Madame de Villefort, and sometimes, I confess, I have gone so far as to try to read in his eyes whether he was in possession of the secret of our love."

"My good friend," said Valentine, "I should take you for a visionary, and should tremble for your reason, if I were always to hear you talk in a strain similar to this. Is it possible that you can see anything more than the merest chance in this meeting? Pray reflect a little. My father, who never goes out, has several times been on the point of refusing this invitation; Madame de Villefort, on the contrary, is burning with the desire of seeing this extraordinary nabob in his own house, therefore, she has with great difficulty prevailed on my father to accompany her. No, no; it is as I have said, Maximilian,--there is no one in the world of whom I can ask help but yourself and my grandfather, who is little better than a corpse."

"I see that you are right, logically speaking," said Maximilian; "but the gentle voice which usually has such power over me fails to convince me to-day."

"I feel the same as regards yourself." said Valentine; "and I own that, if you have no stronger proof to give me"--

"I have another," replied Maximilian; "but I fear you will deem it even more absurd than the first."

"So much the worse," said Valentine, smiling.

"It is, nevertheless, conclusive to my mind. My ten years of service have also confirmed my ideas on the subject of sudden inspirations, for I have several times owed my life to a mysterious impulse which directed me to move at once either to the right or to the left, in order to escape the ball which killed the comrade fighting by my side, while it left me unharmed."

"Dear Maximilian, why not attribute your escape to my constant prayers for your safety? When you are away, I no longer pray for myself, but for you."

"Yes, since you have known me," said Morrel, smiling; "but that cannot apply to the time previous to our acquaintance, Valentine."

"You are very provoking, and will not give me credit for anything; but let me hear this second proof, which you yourself own to be absurd."

"Well, look through this opening, and you will see the beautiful new horse which I rode here."

"Ah, what a beautiful creature!" cried Valentine; "why did you not bring him close to the gate, so that I could talk to him and pat him?"

"He is, as you see, a very valuable animal," said Maximilian. "You know that my means are limited, and that I am what would be designated a man of moderate pretensions. Well, I went to a horse dealer's, where I saw this magnificent horse, which I have named Medeah. I asked the price; they told me it was 4,500 francs. I was, therefore, obliged to give it up, as you may imagine, but I own I went away with rather a heavy heart, for the horse had looked at me affectionately, had rubbed his head against me and, when I mounted him, had pranced in the most delightful way imaginable, so that I was altogether fascinated with him. The same evening some friends of mine visited me,--M. de Chateau-Renaud, M. Debray, and five or six other choice spirits, whom you do not know, even by name. They proposed a game of bouillotte. I never play, for I am not rich enough to afford to lose, or sufficiently poor to desire to gain. But I was at my own house, you understand, so there was nothing to be done but to send for the cards, which I did.

"Just as they were sitting down to table, M. de Monte Cristo arrived. He took his seat amongst them; they played, and I won. I am almost ashamed to say that my gains amounted to 5,000 francs. We separated at midnight. I could not defer my pleasure, so I took a cabriolet and drove to the horse dealer's. Feverish and excited, I rang at the door. The person who opened it must have taken me for a madman, for I rushed at once to the stable. Medeah was standing at the rack, eating his hay. I immediately put on the saddle and bridle, to which operation he lent himself with the best grace possible; then, putting the 4,500 francs into the hands of the astonished dealer, I proceeded to fulfil my intention of passing the night in riding in the Champs Elysées. As I rode by the count's house I perceived a light in one of the windows, and fancied I saw the shadow of his figure moving behind the curtain. Now, Valentine, I firmly believe that he knew of my wish to possess this horse, and that he lost expressly to give me the means of procuring him."

"My dear Maximilian, you are really too fanciful; you will not love even me long. A man who accustoms himself to live in such a world of poetry and imagination must find far too little excitement in a common, every-day sort of attachment such as ours. But they are calling me. Do you hear?"

"Ah, Valentine," said Maximilian, "give me but one finger through this opening in the grating, one finger, the littlest finger of all, that I may have the happiness of kissing it."

"Maximilian, we said we would be to each other as two voices, two shadows."

"As you will, Valentine."

"Shall you be happy if I do what you wish?" "Oh, yes!" Valentine mounted on a bench, and passed not only her finger but her whole hand through the opening. Maximilian uttered a cry of delight, and, springing forwards, seized the hand extended towards him, and imprinted on it a fervent and impassioned kiss. The little hand was then immediately withdrawn, and the young man saw Valentine hurrying towards the house, as though she were almost terrified at her own sensations.
 



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