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第26节 财产分享 【
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本文地址:http://www.yeidj.com.cn/book/story.php?id=660
文章摘要:财产分享 ,亲如骨肉羊毛出在匍匐之救,水火无情叶芽董其昌。

阿尔贝和马尔塞夫夫人在圣·日尔曼选定了一家旅馆,重庆时时彩五星定胆:楼上还有一间小套房,一个非常神秘的人租下了这个小套间。

门房从来不曾见过,因为在冬天,他的下巴用一条大红围巾围着。马车夫在寒冷的夜晚才用,而在夏天,每当他走近门口的时候,总是在擤鼻涕。可是:这位先生并没有被监视,据说他是一个地位很高的人,不允许遭受无礼的干涉的,他的微服秘行是受人尊敬的。他来旅馆的时间是固定的,虽然偶或略有迟早。一般地说,不论冬夏,他约莫在四点钟的时候到他的房间里来,但从不在这儿过夜。在冬天,到三点半钟的时候,管理这个小房间的仆人便来生起炉火;在夏天,那个仆人便把冰块端上去。到四点钟,那位神秘的人物便来了。

二十分钟以后,一辆马车在门前停下,一个身穿黑衣服或深蓝衣服的贵妇人从车子里下来,象一个幽灵似的经过门房,悄悄地奔上楼梯。从来没有人问她去找谁。所以她的脸,象那位绅士的脸一样,两个门房也完全不知道。在整个巴黎,大概也只有这两个能这样谨慎识礼的门房,她走到二楼就停下。

然后,她用一种特殊的方式轻轻叩门,她进去以后,门又紧紧地关住。至于他们在房里干什么没人知道。离开那座房子的时候也象进来的时候同样小心。那贵妇人先出去,出去的时候也总是戴着面纱,她跨上马车,不是消失在街的这一头,就是消失街的那一头,约莫二十分钟后,那位绅士也把脸埋在围巾里离去。

在基督山拜访腾格拉尔的第二天,也就是瓦朗蒂娜出丧的那一天,那神秘的房客在早晨十点钟进来了。几乎同时而不是象往常那样间隔一段时间以后,来了一辆马车,那戴面纱的贵妇人匆匆地从车子上下来奔上楼去。门开了,但在它还没有关以前,那贵妇人就喊了一声道:“噢,吕西安!我的朋友!”门房这才第一次知道那房客的名字是叫吕西安,可是,因为他是一个模范门房,他决定这件事情连老婆都不告诉。

“嗯,什么事,亲爱的?”他的名字被那贵妇人在仓猝中泄漏出来的那位绅士说,“告诉我,什么事?”

“噢,吕西安!我能依靠你吗?”

“当然罗,你是知道的。但是出什么事了呀?你今天早晨的那张便条把我完全弄糊涂了。你写的那样仓促,字迹那样潦草,——快说出来,好让我放心,要不索性吓我一跳。”

“吕西安,出大事了!”那贵妇人用探询的目光望着吕西安说,“腾格拉尔先生昨天晚上出走了!”

“出走了,腾格拉尔先生出走了!他到哪儿去了呢?”

“我不知道。”

“你是什么意思?你不知道?那么他这一走就不回来了吗?”

“想必是吧!昨天晚上十点钟,他乘马车到了卡兰登城门,那儿有一辆驿车在等着他,他带着贴身仆人上了车,对他自己的车夫说是到枫丹白露去。”

“那么你刚才怎么说——”

“等一等,他留了一封信给我。”

“一封信?”

“是的,你念吧。”于是男爵夫人从她的口袋里拿出一封信来交给德布雷。

德布雷然后开始读信沉思了一会儿,象是在猜测那封信的内容,又象是在考虑,不论那封信的内容如何,也想先考虑一下下一步该怎么做。几分钟后他无疑已拿定了主意,那封使男爵夫人心神不定的信是这样的:

“我忠实的夫人:”

德布雷毫不思索地住口,望一望男爵夫人,男爵夫人羞得连眼睛都红了。“念吧。”她说。狄布雷继续念道:

“当你收到这封信的时候,你已失去你的丈夫了!噢!

你不必惊慌,只是象你失去女儿一样;失去他,我的意思是,我正在三四十条从法国出境的大路上。我这样做应该向你解释,你是一个能完全理解这种解释的女人,我现在就说给你听,所以,请看仔细:今天,有人来向我这儿提取五百万的款项,那笔提款支付了,紧接着又有一个人来向我提取一笔同样数目的款项,我请来人明天来取,我今天出走就是为了逃避明天,明天是太不好受了。你能理解是吗,夫人?”我说你能理解的原因是,因为你对于我的财务是象我自己一样熟悉的。甚至我以为你更清楚,因为在我那从前还非常可观的财产中,其中有相当大的一部分我不知道到哪儿去了,而你则不然,夫人,我肯定你知道得清清楚楚。因为女人生来就有万无一失的本能,——她们甚至能用自己发明代数公式来解释不可思议的事情;但是我,只懂得我自己的数字,只要有一天这些数字欺骗我,我就什么都不知道了。你是否奇怪我的失败来得这样迅速吗?我的金条突然融化烧掉,你可曾觉得有点迷乱吗?我承认我只见了火,但愿你能从灰堆中找到一点金子。我带着这个宽慰的念头离开了你,我审慎的夫人,我虽然离开了你,但良心上却并无任何遗弃你的内疚。你有朋友,和那我已经提及过的灰烬,而尤其重要的是我急于归还给你的自由。关于这个,夫人,我必须再写几句解释一下。以前,当我以为你还能增进我们家庭的收益和女儿的幸福的时候,我达观地闭上眼睛,然而你却把那个家庭变成一片废墟,我也不愿意做另一个人发财的垫脚石了。当我要娶你的时候,你很有钱,但却不受人尊重。原谅我的直率,但既然涉及到你我之间的事,我看我似乎并不需要闪烁其辞。

我增加了我们的财产,十五年来,它持续不断地增加,直到意想不到的灾祸从天而降,以坦白地说,关于这场灾祸,我没有任何过错。你,夫人,你只求增加你自己的财产,你已经成功了。所以,我在离开你的时候,仍让你处于我娶你时的境况,——有钱,但却不受人尊重。别了!从今天起,我也准备要为自己而努力了。你为我做出了榜样,我会照着这个榜样去做的。

你忠诚的丈夫,——腾格拉尔男爵。”

当德布雷读这封长信的时候,男爵夫人始终看着他,他虽然竭力控制自己,却仍禁不住变了一两次脸色。读完信以后,他把信叠好,恢复了他那若有所思的神情。

“怎么样?”腾格拉尔夫人焦急地问,她的焦急心情是容易理解的。

“怎么样?夫人?”德布雷机械地反问。

“这封信你有什么想法?”

“噢,简单得很,夫人,我想腾格拉尔先生走时是有所猜疑的。”

“当然罗,但你要说的,就这一句话吗?”

“我不懂你的意思。”德布雷冷冰冰地说。

“他走了,——走了,永远不回来了!”

“噢,夫人!别那样想!”

“我对你说他是决不回来的了。我知道他的个性,凡是对他自己有利的,他是不会改变的。如果我对他还有用,他会带我一起走的。他把我丢在巴黎,那是因为扔下我对他达到自己的目的有利。所以,他一个人走了,我是永远得自由了。”

腾格拉尔夫人用祈求的表情最后说。

德布雷并不回答,使她仍处于那种焦急的询问态度。

“怎么?”她终于说,“你不回答我?”

“我只想问你一个问题,你打算怎么办?”

“我正要问你我该怎么办,”男爵夫人心情紧张地说。

“啊!那么你希望从我这儿得到忠告?”

“是的,我的确希望你给我忠告。”腾格拉尔夫人急切地说。

“那末,假如你希望我给您忠告,”那青年冷淡地说,“我就建议你去旅行。”

“去旅行!”她吃惊地说。

“当然罗,正如腾格拉尔先生说的,你很有钱,而且是自由的。按我的意见,腾格拉尔小姐婚约的二次破裂,腾格拉尔先生失踪在这双重不幸发生以后,离开巴黎是很有必需的。你必须使外界相信你被遗弃了,而且贫苦无依。一个破产者的妻子如果保持着奢华的外表,人家是无法原谅的。你只须在巴黎逗留两星期,让外界知道你被遗弃了。把这次被遗弃的经过讲给你的朋友听,她们很快就会把消息散布出去。然后你就可以离开了,留下你的首饰,放弃你法定的继承权,每一个人都会赞美你,称赞你洁身自好。他们知道你被遗弃了,会以为你很穷苦,因为只有我一个人知道你的真实经济状况,而且我很愿意把我的账目交给你,做你忠实的合伙人。”

男爵夫人吓呆了脸色苍白,一动都不动地站着,她听这一番话时的恐惧心情,与德布雷说话时的那种漠不关心的镇定形成截然的对比。“遗弃!”她复述德布雷的话说,“啊,是的,我的确被遗弃了!你说得对,阁下,谁都无法怀疑我的处境。”这个堕入情网的骄傲女人用这几句话来答复德布雷。

“但你还有钱,非常有钱,”德布雷一面说,一面从他的皮夹里拿出几张纸来,铺在桌子上。腾格拉尔夫人并不看他,——她竭力抑制自己的心跳和那就要涌放出来的眼泪。

最终,还是自尊心获得胜利;即使她没有完全控制住她激动的心情,至少她没让掉下来眼泪。

“夫人,”德布雷说,“自从我们合作以来,六个月了。你提供了十万法郎的本钱。我们的合伙是四月开始的。五月,我们开始经营,在一个月中赚了四十五六法郎。六月,利润达九十万。七月,我们又增加了一百七十万法郎。你知道,就是做西班牙公债的那个月。八月,我们在月初亏损三十万法郎,但到十三号便已赚回来。现在,在我们的帐上,——一共赚了二百四十万法郎,——那就是说,我们每人一百二十万。现在,夫人,”德布雷用象一个股票掮客一样一本正经地说,“另外还有八万法郎,是这笔钱的利息。”

“但是,”男爵夫人说,“我没想到你拿钱出去入利息。”

“请原谅,夫人,”德布雷冷冷地说,“我这样做是得到过你的允许的,所以,除了你提供的十万法郎以外,你还可以分到四万利息,加起来,你的部份一共是一百三十四法郎。嗯,夫人,为了安全起见,我前天已经把你的钱从银行提出来了。你瞧,两天的时间不算长,如果我迟迟不算账,等人找上门来,我就被人怀疑了。你的钱在那儿,一半现金,一半是支票。我说‘那儿’是因为我的家里不够安全,律师也不够可靠,房地产预订契约,尤其是,你没有权利保存属于你丈夫的任何东西,所以我把这笔钱属于你的全部财产——放在那只衣柜里面的一只钱箱里,为了可靠起见,我亲自把它锁进去。现在,夫人,”德布雷打开衣柜,拿出钱箱打开,继续说,——“现在,夫人,这是八百张一千法郎的钞票,你看,象是一本装订好的画册:此外,还有一笔二万五千法郎的股息,余数,大概还有十一万法郎[原著计算错误。——译注],这是一张开给我的银行家的支票,他,是会照数付给你的,你大可放心。”

腾格拉尔夫人机械地接受了支票股息和那堆钞票。这笔庞大的财产在桌子上所占的位置并不多。腾格拉尔夫人欲哭无泪、情绪激动,她把钞票放进她钱袋里,把股息和支票夹入笔记本里,然后,她脸色苍白,一声不响地站着,等待一句安慰话。但她等了一个空。

“现在,夫人,”德布雷说,“你有了一笔很可观的财产,一笔能使你每年获益八万法郎的收入,这笔收入,对于一个一年内不能在这儿立足的女人来说,够大的了。你以后可以随心所欲,而且,若果发觉你的收入不够用的话,夫人,看过去的面上,你可用我的,我很愿意把我的全部所有都给你,当然是借给你。”

“谢谢你,阁下,谢谢你,”男爵夫人答道,“你知道,你刚才付给我的那些钱,对于一个准备退隐的可怜女人来说,已经太多了。”

德布雷一时感到有点儿惊愕,但很快恢复了常态,他鞠了一躬,神色之间象是在说,——

“那随便你,夫人。”

在此之前,腾格拉尔夫人或许还抱着某种希望,但当她看到德布雷那漫不经心的表情,那种姑妄听之的目光,以及那种意味深长的沉默的时候,她昂起头,既不发怒也不发抖,但也毫不犹豫地走出房门,甚至不屑向他告别。

“唔!”德布雷在她离开以后说,“这些计划很妙呀!她可以呆在家里读读小说,她虽然不再能在证券交易所投机,但却还可以在纸牌上投机。”

然后,他拿起帐簿,小心地把他刚才付掉的款项一笔笔划去。“我还有一百零六万,”他说。“维尔福小姐死了多可惜呀!她各方面都配得上我的胃口,我本来可以娶她的。”是他平心静气地等腾格拉尔夫人离开二十分钟以后他才离开那座房子。在这期间,他全神贯注地计算数字,把他的表放在一边。

勒萨日剧中那个魔鬼的角色阿斯摩狄思[勒萨日所作剧本《瘸脚魔鬼》中的人物,魔鬼阿斯狄思。——译注]——如果勒萨日没有把他写进自己的作品里,其他想象力丰富的作家也会创造出他来的——如果在德布雷算帐的时候,揭开圣·日尔曼路那座小房子的屋顶,就会看到一幕奇特的情景。在德布雷和腾格拉尔夫人平分二百五十万的那个房间的隔壁房间里,住着两个熟人,他们在我们以前所讲的事情里占着极重要的地位,而且我们以后还要很关切地讲述他们两个人。那个房间里住着美塞苔丝和阿尔贝。最近几天来,美塞苔丝改变了许多,——这并不是因为她现在穿着平淡朴素的服装,以致我们认不出她了,即使有她有钱的时候,她也从不作华丽的打扮,也并不是由于她穷困潦倒以致无法掩饰穷苦的外貌。不,美塞苔丝的改变是她的眼睛不再发光了,她也不再微笑了,她那以前富于机智的流利的谈吐现在听不见了,她常欲言又止。使她的精神崩溃的,不是贫穷,她并不缺乏勇气忍受贫穷的,美塞苔丝从她以前优越的地位降低到她现在的这种境况,象是一个人从一个灯壁辉煌的宫殿进入一片无边的黑暗,——美塞苔丝象是一位皇后从她的宫殿跌到一间茅舍里,她只能有最低限度的生活必需品,她不能习惯那种放在桌子上的泥碗,也不能习惯用下等草褥来代替床铺。她那个美丽的迦太兰人和高贵的伯爵夫人失掉好高傲的目光和动人的微笑,她在周围所见的,只有穷苦。房东在墙上糊了灰色的纸张,地板上不易显示出来,没有地毯,房中的家具引人注目让人没法把目光从硬充阔气的寒酸相上引开,看惯了精美高雅的东西的眼睛看了这些永远不会感到舒服。

马尔塞夫夫人自从离开宅邸后,就住在这儿,周围的寂静使她感到郁闷,可是,看到阿尔贝注意着她的脸色想了解她的情绪,她勉强在自己的嘴唇上露出一种单调的微笑,这种微笑没有一丝暖意,与她以前眼睛里光彩四射的样子截然不同。好象是没有温暖的亮光。阿尔贝也忧心忡忡,过去奢侈的习惯使他与目前的情况极不协调。如果他不戴手套出去,他的一双手便显得太白了,如果他想徒步在街上走,他的皮靴似乎太亮了。可是,这两个高贵而聪明的人,在母子之爱的联系之下,得到了无言的谅解,他们不用象朋友之间那样先得经过初步的尝试阶段才能达到开诚相见。开诚坦白在这种情况下是非常重要的。阿尔贝至少不会对他的母亲说:“妈,我们没有钱了。”他至少不会用这种话来使她难过。以前美塞苔丝从不知道穷苦是怎么回事,她在年轻时代常常谈到贫穷,但在“需要”和“必需”这两个同义同之间,她不清楚什么区别。住在迦太兰村的时候,美塞苔丝想得到而得不到的东西也多得很,但好些东西是她从不缺的。只要鱼网不破,他们就能捕鱼;而只要他们的鱼能卖钱,他们就能买线织新网。

那时候,她没有朋友,只有一个爱人,那时她只须照顾自己。

她经济状况虽然不是太好,但她还可以尽量宽裕地应付自己的一份开销;现在她手头一无所有,却有两份开销得应付。

冬天临近。在那个寒冷的房间里,美塞苔丝没有生火,她以前最喜欢享受炉火的温暖,从大厅到寝室都暖烘烘的。现在她甚至连一朵小花都没有,她以前的房间象是一间培植珍贵花卉的温室。她还有儿子。直到那时,一种责任感激起的兴奋支持着他们。兴奋象热情一样,有时会使我们忘记好多难题。一旦兴奋平静下来,他们不得不从梦境回到现实,在说尽了理想以后,必须谈论到实际。

“妈!”腾格拉尔夫人下楼梯的时候,阿尔贝喊道,“如果感兴趣,我们来算一算我们还有多少钱好吗,我需要一笔钱来实施我的计划。”

“钱!什么都没有!”美塞苔丝苦笑道。

“不,妈,三千法郎。我有一个主意,可以凭三千法郎过上愉快的生活。”

“孩子!”美塞苔丝叹息道。

“唉,亲爱的妈呀!”那年轻人说,“可惜过去我花了你太多的钱,而不知道钱的重要。这三千法郎是一个大数目,我要用它创建一个充满安宁的神奇的前途。”

“可以这么说,我亲爱的孩子,但你认为我们应该接受这三千法郎吗?”美塞苔丝红着脸说。

“我想是的,”阿尔贝用坚决的口气答道。“我们可以接受,因为我们缺钱用,你知道,这零钱就埋在马赛米兰巷一所小房子的花园里。有两百法郎,我们可以到达马赛了。”

“凭两百法郎?你这么想,阿尔贝。”

“噢,至于那一点,我已向公共驿车站和轮船公司调查过了,我已经算好了。你可以乘双人驿车到厦龙,你瞧,妈,我待你象一位皇后一样,这笔车费是三十五法郎。”

阿尔贝于是拿起一支笔写了起来:双人驿车三十五法郎从夏龙到里昂,坐轮船六法郎从里昂到阿维尼翁,仍坐轮船十六法郎从阿维尼翁到马赛七法郎沿余零用五十法郎…总计一百一十四法郎“一百二十吧,”阿尔贝笑着说。“你看,我算得很宽裕了,是不是,妈?”

“你呢,我可怜的孩子?”

“我!你没看见我为自己留了八十法郎吗?一个青年是不需要奢侈的,而且,我知道出门是怎么一回事。”

“可那是乘着私人驿车,带着仆人。”

“随便怎样都行,妈。”

“嗯,就算是这样吧。但这两百法郎呢?”

“这不是?而且另外还多两百。青,我把我的表卖了一百法郎,把表链和坠子卖了三百法郎。多幸运,那些小玩意比表还值钱。这些都是多余的东西!现在,我们很有钱了,因为,你旅途只需要一百一十四法郎,你却可以带着两百五十法郎上路。”

“但我们还欠这间房子的租金呢!”

“三十法郎,从我的一百五十法郎偿付好了,我只需要八十法郎的旅费。你看,我是绰绰有余的了,还有呢。你说这怎么样,妈?”

于是阿尔贝摸出一本嵌金搭扣的小笔记本,——这是他唯一的一件心爱的东西,也许是那些常常来敲他那扇小门的神秘的蒙面女郎送给他的订情信物,——阿尔贝从这本笔记本里抽出一张一千法郎的钞票。

“这是什么?”美塞苔丝问。

“一千法郎,妈。噢,这是真的。”

“你从哪儿得来的?”

“听我说,妈,别激动。”阿尔贝站起来,他母亲的两鳃上各吻了一下,然后站在那儿望着她。“妈,你不知道你是多么的美!”年轻人怀着深挚的母子情激动地说,“你的确是我生平所见到的最美丽最高贵的女人了!”

“好孩子!”美塞苔丝说,她竭力抑制不让眼泪掉下来,但终于还是失败了。

“真的,只要看到你忍受痛苦,我对你的爱就变成崇拜了。”

“我有了儿子就不会痛苦,”美塞苔丝说,“只要我还有他,我是不会感到痛苦的。”

“啊!是这样的。”阿尔贝说,现在开始考验了。你知道我们必须实行的协议吗,妈?”

“我们有什么协议?”

“有的,我们的协议是:你去住在马赛,而我则动身到非洲去,在那儿,我将不用已经抛弃的那个姓,而用我现在这个姓氏。”美塞苔丝叹了一口气。“嗯,妈呀!我昨天已经去应征加入驻阿尔及利亚的骑兵联队了,”那青年说到这里,便低垂眼睛,感到有点难为情,因为连他自己都不知道他这种自卑的伟大。“我觉得我的身体是我自己的,我有权利卖掉它。我昨天去顶替了一个人的位置。我想不到自己那么值钱,”那青年人竭力想微笑,,”整整两千法郎。”

“那么,这一千法郎——”美塞苔丝浑身打寒颤说。

“是那笔款子的一半,妈,其余的在一年之内付清。”

美塞苔丝带着一种无法形容的表情抬头向天,一直被抑制着的眼泪,现在涌了出来。

“用血换来的代价。”她难过地说。

“是的,如果我战死的话,”阿尔贝笑着说,“但我向你保证,妈,我有坚强的意志要保护我的身体,我求生的意志从来还没有象现在这样坚强。”

“仁慈的上帝啊!”

“而且,妈,为什么你一定以为我会战死?拉摩利萨可曾被杀吗?姜茄尼可曾被杀吗?皮杜[以上三人均为当时侵略阿尔及利亚等非洲土地的法国将军。——译注]可曾被杀吗?莫雷尔,我们认识的,可曾被杀吗?想想看,妈,当你看到我穿着一套镶花制服回来的时候,你将多么高兴呀!我要说:我觉得前途乐观得很,我选择那个联队只是为了名誉。”

美塞苔丝竭力想笑,结果却是叹了一口气。这个神圣的母亲觉得她不应该只让儿子肩负重担。

“嗯!现在你懂了吧,妈!”阿尔贝继续说,“我们有四千多法郎供你花。这笔钱,至少供你生活两年。”

“你是这样想的吗?”美塞苔丝说。

这句话说出来是这样的悲伤,阿尔贝理解母亲的心思。他的心在猛跳,他抓住母亲的手,温柔地说:“是的,你会活下去的!”

“我会活下去!那么你离开我了吗,阿尔贝?”

“妈,我必须去的,”阿尔贝用一种坚定而平静的声音说,“你很爱我!所以不愿意看见我无所事事在你的身边闲荡,而且,我已经签了约了。”

“你可以按你自己的意愿行事,我的孩子,而我——我将按上帝的意志行事。”

“那不是我的意志,妈,是我的理智——。我们难道不是两个绝望的人吗?生命对你有什么意义?没有什么可留恋的。生命对我有什么意义?没有了你,也无可留恋了,相信我,要不是为了你,早在我怀疑我的父亲,抛夺他的姓氏的那一天,我就不会再活了。如果你答应我继续保持希望,我就可以活下去,如果你允许我照顾你未来的生活,你就可以使我的力量增加一倍。那时,我就去见阿尔及利亚总督,他有一颗仁慈的心,而且是一个道地的军人。我将把我悲惨的身世告诉他。我将要求他照顾我,如果他能克守诺言,对我发生了兴趣,那么在六个月之内,若果我不死,我就是一个军官了。如果我成了军官,你的幸福就确定了,因为那时我就有够两个人用的钱了,尤其是,我们将有一个足以引以为自豪的姓氏,因为那是我们自己的姓氏了。如果我被杀了,那么,妈呀,如果你愿意的话,你也可以死了,而我们的不幸也就可以结束了。”

“很好,”美塞苔丝说,眼里露出高贵而动人的神色。“你说得对,我的宝贝,向那些注意我们的行动的人证明:我们至少是值得同情的。”

“但我们不要去想那种可怕结果,”那青年说,“我向你保证:我们是说得更切确些,我们将来是快乐的。你是一个对生活充满希望而同时又是乐天安命的女人,我要改掉坏习惯,希望能不动情感。一旦到了部队里,我就会有钱,一旦住进唐太斯先生的房子,你就会得到安宁。让我们奋斗吧,我求求你——让我们用奋斗去寻找快乐吧。”

“是的,让我们奋斗吧,因为你是应该活下去的,而且是应该得到快乐的,阿尔贝。”

“那么我们的财产分割就这么定了,妈,”那青年装出满不在乎的样子说,“我们今天就可以出发了,我按我们商定的办法去给你定位子。”

“你呢,我亲爱的孩子?”

“我在这儿再住几天,我们必须使自己习惯于分别。我要去弄几封介绍信,还要打听一些关于非洲的消息。我到马赛再去见你。”

“那么,就这样吧!我们走吧。”美塞苔丝一面说,一面披上围巾,她只带出来这一条围巾,它是一条珍贵的黑色的克什米尔羊毛围巾。阿尔贝匆匆忙忙地收集好他的文件,付清他欠房东的三十法郎,伸手臂扶着他的母亲,走下楼梯。恰好有一个人走在他的前面,这个人听到绸衣服的窸窣声,恰好转过头来。“德布雷!”阿尔贝轻声地说。

“是你,马尔塞夫,”大臣秘书站在楼梯上答道。好奇心战胜了他那想掩饰真面目的愿望,而且,他已被马尔塞夫认出来了。在这个意想不到的地方遇见那个青年,他的不幸曾在巴黎轰动一时,这的确是够新奇的。

“马尔塞夫!”德布雷说。然后,在昏暗的光线里注意到马尔塞夫夫人那依旧还很美的身材和那黑色的面纱,他便带着一个微笑说,“原谅我!我走了,阿尔贝。”

阿尔贝明白他的意思。“妈,”他转过去对美塞苔丝说,“这位是德布雷先生,内政部长的私人秘书,曾经是我们的朋友。”

“怎么说曾经呢?”德布雷结结巴巴地说,“你是什么意思?”

“我这样说,德布雷先生,是因为我现在没有朋友了,我应该是没有朋友的了。我感谢你还能认出我。”

德布雷走上来热情地和对方握手。“相信我,亲爱的阿尔贝,”他尽量用友好热情的口吻说,“——相信我,我对你的不幸深表同情,如果我能够为你效劳的话,我可以听从你的吩咐。”

“谢谢你,阁下,”阿尔贝微笑着说,“我们虽遭不幸,却还过得去。我们要离开巴黎了,在我们付清车费以后,我们还能剩下五千法郎。”

德布雷的脸都红了,他的钱袋里装着一百万呢,他虽然不善于想象,但他不禁联想到:就在一会儿以前这座房子里有两个女人,一个是应该遭受耻辱的,但在她的披风底下带着一百五十万还觉得穷,另一个是遭受了不公平的的打击,但她却在忍受她的不幸,虽然身边只有几个钱,却还觉得很富足。这种对比使他以前的那种殷勤的态度,实例所说明的哲理使他迷惑了。他含糊地说了几句客套话,便奔下楼梯。那天,部里的职员,他的下属都成了他的出气筒。但当天晚上,他成了一座座落在玛德伦大道上的漂亮的房子的主人。并且每年有五万里弗的收入。

第二天,正当德布雷在签署房契的时候,——也就是说在下午五点钟左右,——马尔塞夫夫人满怀热情地拥抱了儿子,跨进公共驿车,车门随后关上了。这时,在拉费德银行一扇拱形小窗口后面,躲着一个人。他看见美茜丝走进驿车,看见驿车开走看见阿尔贝回去,这时他举起手,按在他那布满疑云的额头上。“唉!我从这些可怜的无辜者手中夺来的幸福!”怎样才能把幸福还给他们呢?上帝帮助我吧!”
 

THE APARTMENT on the second floor of the house in the Rue Saint-Germain-des-Prés, where Albert de Morcerf had selected a home for his mother, was let to a very mysterious person. This was a man whose face the concièrge himself had never seen, for in the winter his chin was buried in one of the large red handkerchiefs worn by gentlemen's coachmen on a cold night, and in the summer he made a point of always blowing his nose just as he approached the door. Contrary to custom, this gentleman had not been watched, for as the report ran that he was a person of high rank, and one who would allow no impertinent interference, his incognito was strictly respected.

His visits were tolerably regular, though occasionally he appeared a little before or after his time, but generally, both in summer and winter, he took possession of his apartment about four o'clock, though he never spent the night there. At half-past three in the winter the fire was lighted by the discreet servant, who had the superintendence of the little apartment, and in the summer ices were placed on the table at the same hour. At four o'clock, as we have already stated, the mysterious personage arrived. Twenty minutes afterwards a carriage stopped at the house, a lady alighted in a black or dark blue dress, and always thickly veiled; she passed like a shadow through the lodge, and ran up-stairs without a sound escaping under the touch of her light foot. No one ever asked her where she was going. Her face, therefore, like that of the gentleman, was perfectly unknown to the two concièrges, who were perhaps unequalled throughout the capital for discretion. We need not say she stopped at the second floor. Then she tapped in a peculiar manner at a door, which after being opened to admit her was again fastened, and curiosity penetrated no farther. They used the same precautions in leaving as in entering the house. The lady always left first, and as soon as she had stepped into her carriage, it drove away, sometimes towards the right hand, sometimes to the left; then about twenty minutes afterwards the gentleman would also leave, buried in his cravat or concealed by his handkerchief.

The day after Monte Cristo had called upon Danglars, the mysterious lodger entered at ten o'clock in the morning instead of four in the afternoon. Almost directly afterwards, without the usual interval of time, a cab arrived, and the veiled lady ran hastily up-stairs. The door opened, but before it could be closed, the lady exclaimed: "Oh, Lucien--oh, my friend!" The concièrge therefore heard for the first time that the lodger's name was Lucien; still, as he was the very perfection of a door-keeper, he made up his mind not to tell his wife. "Well, what is the matter, my dear?" asked the gentleman whose name the lady's agitation revealed; "tell me what is the matter."

"Oh, Lucien, can I confide in you?"

"Of course, you know you can do so. But what can be the matter? Your note of this morning has completely bewildered me. This precipitation--this unusual appointment. Come, ease me of my anxiety, or else frighten me at once."

"Lucien, a great event has happened!" said the lady, glancing inquiringly at Lucien,--"M. Danglars left last night!"

"Left?--M. Danglars left? Where has he gone?"

"I do not know."

"What do you mean? Has he gone intending not to return?"

"Undoubtedly;--at ten o'clock at night his horses took him to the barrier of Charenton; there a post-chaise was waiting for him--he entered it with his valet de chambre, saying that he was going to Fontainebleau."

"Then what did you mean"--

"Stay--he left a letter for me."

"A letter?"

"Yes; read it." And the baroness took from her pocket a letter which she gave to Debray. Debray paused a moment before reading, as if trying to guess its contents, or perhaps while making up his mind how to act, whatever it might contain. No doubt his ideas were arranged in a few minutes, for he began reading the letter which caused so much uneasiness in the heart of the baroness, and which ran as follows:--

"Madame and most faithful wife."

Debray mechanically stopped and looked at the baroness, whose face became covered with blushes. "Read," she said.

Debray continued:--

"When you receive this, you will no longer have a husband. Oh, you need not be alarmed, you will only have lost him as you have lost your daughter; I mean that I shall be travelling on one of the thirty or forty roads leading out of France. I owe you some explanations for my conduct, and as you are a woman that can perfectly understand me, I will give them. Listen, then. I received this morning five millions which I paid away; almost directly afterwards another demand for the same sum was presented to me; I put this creditor off till to-morrow and I intend leaving to-day, to escape that to-morrow, which would be rather too unpleasant for me to endure. You understand this, do you not, my most precious wife? I say you understand this, because you are as conversant with my affairs as I am; indeed, I think you understand them better, since I am ignorant of what has become of a considerable portion of my fortune, once very tolerable, while I am sure, madame, that you know perfectly well. For women have infallible instincts; they can even explain the marvellous by an algebraic calculation they have invented; but I, who only understand my own figures, know nothing more than that one day these figures deceived me. Have you admired the rapidity of my fall? Have you been slightly dazzled at the sudden fusion of my ingots? I confess I have seen nothing but the fire; let us hope you have found some gold among the ashes. With this consoling idea, I leave you, madame, and most prudent wife, without any conscientious reproach for abandoning you; you have friends left, and the ashes I have already mentioned, and above all the liberty I hasten to restore to you. And here, madame, I must add another word of explanation. So long as I hoped you were working for the good of our house and for the fortune of our daughter, I philosophically closed my eyes; but as you have transformed that house into a vast ruin I will not be the foundation of another man's fortune. You were rich when I married you, but little respected. Excuse me for speaking so very candidly, but as this is intended only for ourselves, I do not see why I should weigh my words. I have augmented our fortune, and it has continued to increase during the last fifteen years, till extraordinary and unexpected catastrophes have suddenly overturned it,--without any fault of mine, I can honestly declare. You, madame, have only sought to increase your own, and I am convinced that you have succeeded. I leave you, therefore, as I took you,--rich, but little respected. Adieu! I also intend from this time to work on my own account. Accept my acknowledgments for the example you have set me, and which I intend following.

"Your very devoted husband,

"BARON DANGLARS."

The baroness had watched Debray while he read this long and painful letter, and saw him, notwithstanding his self-control, change color once or twice. When he had ended the perusal, he folded the letter and resumed his pensive attitude. "Well?" asked Madame Danglars, with an anxiety easy to be understood.

"Well, madame?" unhesitatingly repeated Debray.

"With what ideas does that letter inspire you?"

"Oh, it is simple enough, madame; it inspires me with the idea that M. Danglars has left suspiciously."

"Certainly; but is this all you have to say to me?"

"I do not understand you," said Debray with freezing coldness.

"He is gone! Gone, never to return!"

"Oh, madame, do not think that!"

"I tell you he will never return. I know his character; he is inflexible in any resolutions formed for his own interests. If he could have made any use of me, he would have taken me with him; he leaves me in Paris, as our separation will conduce to his benefit;--therefore he has gone, and I am free forever," added Madame Danglars, in the same supplicating tone. Debray, instead of answering, allowed her to remain in an attitude of nervous inquiry. "Well?" she said at length, "do you not answer me?"

"I have but one question to ask you,--what do you intend to do?"

"I was going to ask you," replied the baroness with a beating heart.

"Ah, then, you wish to ask advice of me?"

"Yes; I do wish to ask your advice," said Madame Danglars with anxious expectation.

"Then if you wish to take my advice," said the young man coldly, "I would recommend you to travel."

"To travel!" she murmured.

"Certainly; as M. Danglars says, you are rich, and perfectly free. In my opinion, a withdrawal from Paris is absolutely necessary after the double catastrophe of Mademoiselle Danglars' broken contract and M. Danglars' disappearance. The world will think you abandoned and poor, for the wife of a bankrupt would never be forgiven, were she to keep up an appearance of opulence. You have only to remain in Paris for about a fortnight, telling the world you are abandoned, and relating the details of this desertion to your best friends, who will soon spread the report. Then you can quit your house, leaving your jewels and giving up your jointure, and every one's mouth will be filled with praises of your disinterestedness. They will know you are deserted, and think you also poor, for I alone know your real financial position, and am quite ready to give up my accounts as an honest partner." The dread with which the pale and motionless baroness listened to this, was equalled by the calm indifference with which Debray had spoken. "Deserted?" she repeated; "ah, yes, I am, indeed, deserted! You are right, sir, and no one can doubt my position." These were the only words that this proud and violently enamoured woman could utter in response to Debray.

"But then you are rich,--very rich, indeed," continued Debray, taking out some papers from his pocket-book, which he spread upon the table. Madame Danglars did not see them; she was engaged in stilling the beatings of her heart, and restraining the tears which were ready to gush forth. At length a sense of dignity prevailed, and if she did not entirely master her agitation, she at least succeeded in preventing the fall of a single tear. "Madame," said Debray, "it is nearly six months since we have been associated. You furnished a principal of 100,000 francs. Our partnership began in the month of April. In May we commenced operations, and in the course of the month gained 450,000 francs. In June the profit amounted to 900,000. In July we added 1,700,000 francs,--it was, you know, the month of the Spanish bonds. In August we lost 300,000 francs at the beginning of the month, but on the 13th we made up for it, and we now find that our accounts, reckoning from the first day of partnership up to yesterday, when I closed them, showed a capital of 2,400,000 francs, that is, 1,200,000 for each of us. Now, madame," said Debray, delivering up his accounts in the methodical manner of a stockbroker, "there are still 80,000 francs, the interest of this money, in my hands."

"But," said the baroness, "I thought you never put the money out to interest."

"Excuse me, madame," said Debray coldly, "I had your permission to do so, and I have made use of it. There are, then, 40,000 francs for your share, besides the 100,000 you furnished me to begin with, making in all 1,340,000 francs for your portion. Now, madame, I took the precaution of drawing out your money the day before yesterday; it is not long ago, you see, and I was in continual expectation of being called on to deliver up my accounts. There is your money,--half in bank-notes, the other half in checks payable to bearer. I say there, for as I did not consider my house safe enough, or lawyers sufficiently discreet, and as landed property carries evidence with it, and moreover since you have no right to possess anything independent of your husband, I have kept this sum, now your whole fortune, in a chest concealed under that closet, and for greater security I myself concealed it there.

"Now, madame," continued Debray, first opening the closet, then the chest;--"now, madame, here are 800 notes of 1,000 francs each, resembling, as you see, a large book bound in iron; to this I add a certificate in the funds of 25,000 francs; then, for the odd cash, making I think about 110,000 francs, here is a check upon my banker, who, not being M. Danglars, will pay you the amount, you may rest assured." Madame Danglars mechanically took the check, the bond, and the heap of bank-notes. This enormous fortune made no great appearance on the table. Madame Danglars, with tearless eyes, but with her breast heaving with concealed emotion, placed the bank-notes in her bag, put the certificate and check into her pocket-book, and then, standing pale and mute, awaited one kind word of consolation. But she waited in vain.

"Now, madame," said Debray, "you have a splendid fortune, an income of about 60,000 livres a year, which is enormous for a woman who cannot keep an establishment here for a year, at least. You will be able to indulge all your fancies; besides, should you find your income insufficient, you can, for the sake of the past, madame, make use of mine; and I am ready to offer you all I possess, on loan."

"Thank you, sir--thank you," replied the baroness; "you forget that what you have just paid me is much more than a poor woman requires, who intends for some time, at least, to retire from the world."

Debray was, for a moment, surprised, but immediately recovering himself, he bowed with an air which seemed to say, "As you please, madame."

Madame Danglars had until then, perhaps, hoped for something; but when she saw the careless bow of Debray, and the glance by which it was accompanied, together with his significant silence, she raised her head, and without passion or violence or even hesitation, ran down-stairs, disdaining to address a last farewell to one who could thus part from her. "Bah," said Debray, when she had left, "these are fine projects! She will remain at home, read novels, and speculate at cards, since she can no longer do so on the Bourse." Then taking up his account book, he cancelled with the greatest care all the entries of the amounts he had just paid away. "I have 1,060,000 francs remaining," he said. "What a pity Mademoiselle de Villefort is dead! She suited me in every respect, and I would have married her." And he calmly waited until the twenty minutes had elapsed after Madame Danglars' departure before he left the house. During this time he occupied himself in making figures, with his watch by his side.

Asmodeus--that diabolical personage, who would have been created by every fertile imagination if Le Sage had not acquired the priority in his great masterpiece--would have enjoyed a singular spectacle, if he had lifted up the roof of the little house in the Rue Saint-Germain-des-Prés, while Debray was casting up his figures. Above the room in which Debray had been dividing two millions and a half with Madame Danglars was another, inhabited by persons who have played too prominent a part in the incidents we have related for their appearance not to create some interest. Mercédès and Albert were in that room. Mercédès was much changed within the last few days; not that even in her days of fortune she had ever dressed with the magnificent display which makes us no longer able to recognize a woman when she appears in a plain and simple attire; nor indeed, had she fallen into that state of depression where it is impossible to conceal the garb of misery; no, the change in Mercédès was that her eye no longer sparkled, her lips no longer smiled, and there was now a hesitation in uttering the words which formerly sprang so fluently from her ready wit.

It was not poverty which had broken her spirit; it was not a want of courage which rendered her poverty burdensome. Mercédès, although deposed from the exalted position she had occupied, lost in the sphere she had now chosen, like a person passing from a room splendidly lighted into utter darkness, appeared like a queen, fallen from her palace to a hovel, and who, reduced to strict necessity, could neither become reconciled to the earthen vessels she was herself forced to place upon the table, nor to the humble pallet which had become her bed. The beautiful Catalane and noble countess had lost both her proud glance and charming smile, because she saw nothing but misery around her; the walls were hung with one of the gray papers which economical landlords choose as not likely to show the dirt; the floor was uncarpeted; the furniture attracted the attention to the poor attempt at luxury; indeed, everything offended eyes accustomed to refinement and elegance.

Madame de Morcerf had lived there since leaving her house; the continual silence of the spot oppressed her; still, seeing that Albert continually watched her countenance to judge the state of her feelings, she constrained herself to assume a monotonous smile of the lips alone, which, contrasted with the sweet and beaming expression that usually shone from her eyes, seemed like "moonlight on a statue,"--yielding light without warmth. Albert, too, was ill at ease; the remains of luxury prevented him from sinking into his actual position. If he wished to go out without gloves, his hands appeared too white; if he wished to walk through the town, his boots seemed too highly polished. Yet these two noble and intelligent creatures, united by the indissoluble ties of maternal and filial love, had succeeded in tacitly understanding one another, and economizing their stores, and Albert had been able to tell his mother without extorting a change of countenance,--"Mother, we have no more money."

Mercédès had never known misery; she had often, in her youth, spoken of poverty, but between want and necessity, those synonymous words, there is a wide difference. Amongst the Catalans, Mercédès wished for a thousand things, but still she never really wanted any. So long as the nets were good, they caught fish; and so long as they sold their fish, they were able to buy twine for new nets. And then, shut out from friendship, having but one affection, which could not be mixed up with her ordinary pursuits, she thought of herself--of no one but herself. Upon the little she earned she lived as well as she could; now there were two to be supported, and nothing to live upon.

Winter approached. Mercédès had no fire in that cold and naked room--she, who was accustomed to stoves which heated the house from the hall to the boudoir; she had not even one little flower--she whose apartment had been a conservatory of costly exotics. But she had her son. Hitherto the excitement of fulfilling a duty had sustained them. Excitement, like enthusiasm, sometimes renders us unconscious to the things of earth. But the excitement had calmed down, and they felt themselves obliged to descend from dreams to reality; after having exhausted the ideal, they found they must talk of the actual.

"Mother," exclaimed Albert, just as Madame Danglars was descending the stairs, "let us reckon our riches, if you please; I want capital to build my plans upon."

"Capital--nothing!" replied Mercédès with a mournful smile.

"No, mother,--capital 3,000 francs. And I have an idea of our leading a delightful life upon this 3,000 francs."

"Child!" sighed Mercédès.

"Alas, dear mother," said the young man, "I have unhappily spent too much of your money not to know the value of it. These 3,000 francs are enormous, and I intend building upon this foundation a miraculous certainty for the future."

"You say this, my dear boy; but do you think we ought to accept these 3,000 francs?" said Mercédès, coloring.

"I think so," answered Albert in a firm tone. "We will accept them the more readily, since we have them not here; you know they are buried in the garden of the little house in the Allées de Meillan, at Marseilles. With 200 francs we can reach Marseilles."

"With 200 francs?--are you sure, Albert?"

"Oh, as for that, I have made inquiries respecting the diligences and steamboats, and my calculations are made. You will take your place in the coupé to Chalons. You see, mother, I treat you handsomely for thirty-five francs." Albert then took a pen, and wrote:--

Coupé, thirty-five francs ............................ 35 Frs.

From Chalons to Lyons you will go on by the steamboat--six francs ......................................... 6

From Lyons to Avignon (still by steamboat), sixteen francs ........ 16

From Avignon to Marseilles, seven franc............................ 7

Expenses on the road, about fifty francs .......................... 50 Total.............................................................. 114 frs.

"Let us put down 120," added Albert, smiling. "You see I am generous, am I not, mother?"

"But you, my poor child?"

"I? do you not see that I reserve eighty francs for myself? A young man does not require luxuries; besides, I know what travelling is."

"With a post-chaise and valet de chambre?"

"Any way, mother."

"Well, be it so. But these 200 francs?"

"Here they are, and 200 more besides. See, I have sold my watch for 100 francs, and the guard and seals for 300. How fortunate that the ornaments were worth more than the watch. Still the same story of superfluities! Now I think we are rich, since instead of the 114 francs we require for the journey we find ourselves in possession of 250."

"But we owe something in this house?"

"Thirty francs; but I pay that out of my 150 francs,--that is understood,--and as I require only eighty francs for my journey, you see I am overwhelmed with luxury. But that is not all. What do you say to this, mother?"

And Albert took out of a little pocket-book with golden clasps, a remnant of his old fancies, or perhaps a tender souvenir from one of the mysterious and veiled ladies who used to knock at his little door,--Albert took out of this pocket-book a note of 1,000 francs.

"What is this?" asked Mercédès.

"A thousand francs."

"But whence have you obtained them?" "Listen to me, mother, and do not yield too much to agitation." And Albert, rising, kissed his mother on both cheeks, then stood looking at her. "You cannot imagine, mother, how beautiful I think you!" said the young man, impressed with a profound feeling of filial love. "You are, indeed, the most beautiful and most noble woman I ever saw!"

"Dear child!" said Mercédès, endeavoring in vain to restrain a tear which glistened in the corner of her eye. "Indeed, you only wanted misfortune to change my love for you to admiration. I am not unhappy while I possess my son!"

"Ah, just so," said Albert; "here begins the trial. Do you know the decision we have come to, mother?"

"Have we come to any?"

"Yes; it is decided that you are to live at Marseilles, and that I am to leave for Africa, where I will earn for myself the right to use the name I now bear, instead of the one I have thrown aside." Mercédès sighed. "Well, mother, I yesterday engaged myself as substitute in the Spahis,"* added the young man, lowering his eyes with a certain feeling of shame, for even he was unconscious of the sublimity of his self-abasement. "I thought my body was my own, and that I might sell it. I yesterday took the place of another. I sold myself for more than I thought I was worth," he added, attempting to smile; "I fetched 2,000 francs."

* The Spahis are French cavalry reserved for service in Africa.

"Then these 1,000 francs"--said Mercédès, shuddering--

"Are the half of the sum, mother; the other will be paid in a year."

Mercédès raised her eyes to heaven with an expression it would be impossible to describe, and tears, which had hitherto been restrained, now yielded to her emotion, and ran down her cheeks.

"The price of his blood!" she murmured.

"Yes, if I am killed," said Albert, laughing. "But I assure you, mother, I have a strong intention of defending my person, and I never felt half so strong an inclination to live as I do now."

"Merciful heavens!"

"Besides, mother, why should you make up your mind that I am to be killed? Has Lamoricière, that Ney of the South, been killed? Has Changarnier been killed? Has Bedeau been killed? Has Morrel, whom we know, been killed? Think of your joy, mother, when you see me return with an embroidered uniform! I declare, I expect to look magnificent in it, and chose that regiment only from vanity." Mercédès sighed while endeavoring to smile; the devoted mother felt that she ought not to allow the whole weight of the sacrifice to fall upon her son. "Well, now you understand, mother!" continued Albert; "here are more than 4,000 francs settled on you; upon these you can live at least two years."

"Do you think so?" said Mercédès. These words were uttered in so mournful a tone that their real meaning did not escape Albert; he felt his heart beat, and taking his mother's hand within his own he said, tenderly,--

"Yes, you will live!"

"I shall live!--then you will not leave me, Albert?"

"Mother, I must go," said Albert in a firm, calm voice; "you love me too well to wish me to remain useless and idle with you; besides, I have signed."

"You will obey your own wish and the will of heaven!"

"Not my own wish, mother, but reason--necessity. Are we not two despairing creatures? What is life to you?--Nothing. What is life to me?--Very little without you, mother; for believe me, but for you I should have ceased to live on the day I doubted my father and renounced his name. Well, I will live, if you promise me still to hope; and if you grant me the care of your future prospects, you will redouble my strength. Then I will go to the governor of Algeria; he has a royal heart, and is essentially a soldier; I will tell him my gloomy story. I will beg him to turn his eyes now and then towards me, and if he keep his word and interest himself for me, in six months I shall be an officer, or dead. If I am an officer, your fortune is certain, for I shall have money enough for both, and, moreover, a name we shall both be proud of, since it will be our own. If I am killed--well then mother, you can also die, and there will be an end of our misfortunes."

"It is well," replied Mercédès, with her eloquent glance; "you are right, my love; let us prove to those who are watching our actions that we are worthy of compassion."

"But let us not yield to gloomy apprehensions," said the young man; "I assure you we are, or rather we shall be, very happy. You are a woman at once full of spirit and resignation; I have become simple in my tastes, and am without passion, I hope. Once in service, I shall be rich--once in M. Dantès' house, you will be at rest. Let us strive, I beseech you,--let us strive to be cheerful."

"Yes, let us strive, for you ought to live, and to be happy, Albert."

"And so our division is made, mother," said the young man, affecting ease of mind. "We can now part; come, I shall engage your passage."

"And you, my dear boy?"

"I shall stay here for a few days longer; we must accustom ourselves to parting. I want recommendations and some information relative to Africa. I will join you again at Marseilles."

"Well, be it so--let us part," said Mercédès, folding around her shoulders the only shawl she had taken away, and which accidentally happened to be a valuable black cashmere. Albert gathered up his papers hastily, rang the bell to pay the thirty francs he owed to the landlord, and offering his arm to his mother, they descended the stairs. Some one was walking down before them, and this person, hearing the rustling of a silk dress, turned around. "Debray!" muttered Albert.

"You, Morcerf?" replied the secretary, resting on the stairs. Curiosity had vanquished the desire of preserving his incognito, and he was recognized. It was, indeed, strange in this unknown spot to find the young man whose misfortunes had made so much noise in Paris.

"Morcerf!" repeated Debray. Then noticing in the dim light the still youthful and veiled figure of Madame de Morcerf:--"Pardon me," he added with a smile, "I leave you, Albert." Albert understood his thoughts. "Mother," he said, turning towards Mercédès, "this is M. Debray, secretary of the minister for the interior, once a friend of mine."

"How once?" stammered Debray; "what do you mean?"

"I say so, M. Debray, because I have no friends now, and I ought not to have any. I thank you for having recognized me, sir." Debray stepped forward, and cordially pressed the hand of his interlocutor. "Believe me, dear Albert," he said, with all the emotion he was capable of feeling,--"believe me, I feel deeply for your misfortunes, and if in any way I can serve you, I am yours."

"Thank you, sir," said Albert, smiling. "In the midst of our misfortunes, we are still rich enough not to require assistance from any one. We are leaving Paris, and when our journey is paid, we shall have 5,000 francs left." The blood mounted to the temples of Debray, who held a million in his pocket-book, and unimaginative as he was he could not help reflecting that the same house had contained two women, one of whom, justly dishonored, had left it poor with 1,500,000 francs under her cloak, while the other, unjustly stricken, but sublime in her misfortune, was yet rich with a few deniers. This parallel disturbed his usual politeness, the philosophy he witnessed appalled him, he muttered a few words of general civility and ran down-stairs.

That day the minister's clerks and the subordinates had a great deal to put up with from his ill-humor. But that same night, he found himself the possessor of a fine house, situated on the Boulevard de la Madeleine, and an income of 50,000 livres. The next day, just as Debray was signing the deed, that is about five o'clock in the afternoon, Madame de Morcerf, after having affectionately embraced her son, entered the coupé of the diligence, which closed upon her. A man was hidden in Lafitte's banking-house, behind one of the little arched windows which are placed above each desk; he saw Mercédès enter the diligence, and he also saw Albert withdraw. Then he passed his hand across his forehead, which was clouded with doubt. "Alas," he exclaimed, "how can I restore the happiness I have taken away from these poor innocent creatures? God help me!"
 



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