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- The Count of Monte Cristo - 150/309 -


"Was not the winning horse entered by the name of Vampa?"

"What of that?"

"Why, do you not recollect the name of the celebrated bandit by whom I was made prisoner?"

"Oh, yes."

"And from whose hands the count extricated me in so wonderful a manner?"

"To be sure, I remember it all now."

"He called himself Vampa. You see, it's evident where the count got the name."

"But what could have been his motive for sending the cup to me?"

"In the first place, because I had spoken much of you to him, as you may believe; and in the second, because he delighted to see a countrywoman take so lively an interest in his success."

"I trust and hope you never repeated to the count all the foolish remarks we used to make about him?"

"I should not like to affirm upon oath that I have not. Besides, his presenting you the cup under the name of Lord Ruthven" --

"Oh, but that is dreadful! Why, the man must owe me a fearful grudge."

"Does his action appear like that of an enemy?"

"No; certainly not."

"Well, then" --

"And so he is in Paris?"

"Yes."

"And what effect does he produce?"

"Why," said Albert, "he was talked about for a week; then the coronation of the queen of England took place, followed by the theft of Mademoiselle Mars's diamonds; and so people talked of something else."

"My good fellow," said Chateau-Renaud, "the count is your friend and you treat him accordingly. Do not believe what Albert is telling you, countess; so far from the sensation excited in the Parisian circles by the appearance of the Count of Monte Cristo having abated, I take upon myself to declare that it is as strong as ever. His first astounding act upon coming amongst us was to present a pair of horses, worth 32,000 francs, to Madame Danglars; his second, the almost miraculous preservation of Madame de Villefort's life; now it seems that he has carried off the prize awarded by the Jockey Club. I therefore maintain, in spite of Morcerf, that not only is the count the object of interest at this present moment, but also that he will continue to be so for a month longer if he pleases to exhibit an eccentricity of conduct which, after all, may be his ordinary mode of existence."

"Perhaps you are right," said Morcerf; "meanwhile, who is in the Russian ambassador's box?"

"Which box do you mean?" asked the countess.

"The one between the pillars on the first tier -- it seems to have been fitted up entirely afresh."

"Did you observe any one during the first act?" asked Chateau-Renaud.

"Where?"

"In that box."

"No," replied the countess, "it was certainly empty during the first act;" then, resuming the subject of their previous conversation, she said, "And so you really believe it was your mysterious Count of Monte Cristo that gained the prize?"

"I am sure of it."

"And who afterwards sent the cup to me?"

"Undoubtedly."

"But I don't know him," said the countess; "I have a great mind to return it."

"Do no such thing, I beg of you; he would only send you another, formed of a magnificent sapphire, or hollowed out of a gigantic ruby. It is his way, and you must take him as you find him." At this moment the bell rang to announce the drawing up of the curtain for the second act. Albert rose to return to his place. "Shall I see you again?" asked the countess. "At the end of the next act, with your permission, I will come and inquire whether there is anything I can do for you in Paris?"

"Pray take notice," said the countess, "that my present residence is 22 Rue de Rivoli, and that I am at home to my friends every Saturday evening. So now, you are both forewarned." The young men bowed, and quitted the box. Upon reaching their stalls, they found the whole of the audience in the parterre standing up and directing their gaze towards the box formerly possessed by the Russian ambassador. A man of from thirty-five to forty years of age, dressed in deep black, had just entered, accompanied by a young woman dressed after the Eastern style. The lady was surpassingly beautiful, while the rich magnificence of her attire drew all eyes upon her. "Hullo," said Albert; "it is Monte Cristo and his Greek!"

The strangers were, indeed, no other than the count and Haidee. In a few moments the young girl had attracted the attention of the whole house, and even the occupants of the boxes leaned forward to scrutinize her magnificent diamonds. The second act passed away during one continued buzz of voices -- one deep whisper -- intimating that some great and universally interesting event had occurred; all eyes, all thoughts, were occupied with the young and beautiful woman, whose gorgeous apparel and splendid jewels made a most extraordinary spectacle. Upon this occasion an unmistakable sign from Madame Danglars intimated her desire to see Albert in her box directly the curtain fell on the second act, and neither the politeness nor good taste of Morcerf would permit his neglecting an invitation so unequivocally given. At the close of the act he therefore went to the baroness. Having bowed to the two ladies, he extended his hand to Debray. By the baroness he was most graciously welcomed, while Eugenie received him with her accustomed coldness.

"My dear fellow," said Debray, "you have come in the nick of time. There is madame overwhelming me with questions respecting the count; she insists upon it that I can tell her his birth, education, and parentage, where he came from, and whither he is going. Being no disciple of Cagliostro, I was wholly unable to do this; so, by way of getting out of the scrape, I said, `Ask Morcerf; he has got the whole history of his beloved Monte Cristo at his fingers' ends;' whereupon the baroness signified her desire to see you."

"Is it not almost incredible," said Madame Danglars, "that a person having at least half a million of secret-service money at his command, should possess so little information?"

"Let me assure you, madame," said Lucien, "that had I really the sum you mention at my disposal, I would employ it more profitably than in troubling myself to obtain particulars respecting the Count of Monte Cristo, whose only merit in my eyes consists in his being twice as rich as a nabob. However, I have turned the business over to Morcerf, so pray settle it with him as may be most agreeable to you; for my own part, I care nothing about the count or his mysterious doings."

"I am very sure no nabob would have sent me a pair of horses worth 32,000 francs, wearing on their heads four diamonds valued at 5,000 francs each."

"He seems to have a mania for diamonds," said Morcerf, smiling, "and I verily believe that, like Potemkin, he keeps his pockets filled, for the sake of strewing them along the road, as Tom Thumb did his flint stones."

"Perhaps he has discovered some mine," said Madame Danglars. "I suppose you know he has an order for unlimited credit on the baron's banking establishment?"

"I was not aware of it," replied Albert, "but I can readily believe it."

"And, further, that he stated to M. Danglars his intention of only staying a year in Paris, during which time he proposed to spend six millions.

"He must be the Shah of Persia, travelling incog."

"Have you noticed the remarkable beauty of the young woman, M. Lucien?" inquired Eugenie.

"I really never met with one woman so ready to do justice to the charms of another as yourself," responded Lucien, raising his lorgnette to his eye. "A most lovely creature, upon my soul!" was his verdict.

"Who is this young person, M. de Morcerf?" inquired Eugenie; "does anybody know?"

"Mademoiselle," said Albert, replying to this direct appeal,


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