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- The Count of Monte Cristo - 160/309 -
"Well," said Monte Cristo in an indifferent tone, "you will do as you please, count, for you are the master of your own actions, and are the person most concerned in the matter, but if I were you, I would not divulge a word of these adventures. Your history is quite a romance, and the world, which delights in romances in yellow covers, strangely mistrusts those which are bound in living parchment, even though they be gilded like yourself. This is the kind of difficulty which I wished to represent to you, my dear count. You would hardly have recited your touching history before it would go forth to the world, and be deemed unlikely and unnatural. You would be no longer a lost child found, but you would be looked upon as an upstart, who had sprung up like a mushroom in the night. You might excite a little curiosity, but it is not every one who likes to be made the centre of observation and the subject of unpleasant remark."
"I agree with you, monsieur," said the young man, turning pale, and, in spite of himself, trembling beneath the scrutinizing look of his companion, "such consequences would be extremely unpleasant."
"Nevertheless, you must not exaggerate the evil," said Monte Cristo, "for by endeavoring to avoid one fault you will fall into another. You must resolve upon one simple and single line of conduct, and for a man of your intelligence, this plan is as easy as it is necessary; you must form honorable friendships, and by that means counteract the prejudice which may attach to the obscurity of your former life." Andrea visibly changed countenance. "I would offer myself as your surety and friendly adviser," said Monte Cristo, "did I not possess a moral distrust of my best friends, and a sort of inclination to lead others to doubt them too; therefore, in departing from this rule, I should (as the actors say) be playing a part quite out of my line, and should, therefore, run the risk of being hissed, which would be an act of folly."
"However, your excellency," said Andrea, "in consideration of Lord Wilmore, by whom I was recommended to you -- "
"Yes, certainly," interrupted Monte Cristo; "but Lord Wilmore did not omit to inform me, my dear M. Andrea, that the season of your youth was rather a stormy one. Ah," said the count, watching Andrea's countenance, "I do not demand any confession from you; it is precisely to avoid that necessity that your father was sent for from Lucca. You shall soon see him. He is a little stiff and pompous in his manner, and he is disfigured by his uniform; but when it becomes known that he has been for eighteen years in the Austrian service, all that will be pardoned. We are not generally very severe with the Austrians. In short, you will find your father a very presentable person, I assure you."
"Ah, sir, you have given me confidence; it is so long since we were separated, that I have not the least remembrance of him, and, besides, you know that in the eyes of the world a large fortune covers all defects."
"He is a millionaire -- his income is 500,000 francs."
"Then," said the young man, with anxiety, "I shall be sure to be placed in an agreeable position."
"One of the most agreeable possible, my dear sir; he will allow you an income of 50,000 livres per annum during the whole time of your stay in Paris."
"Then in that case I shall always choose to remain there."
"You cannot control circumstances, my dear sir; `man proposes, and God disposes.'" Andrea sighed. "But," said he, "so long as I do remain in Paris, and nothing forces me to quit it, do you mean to tell me that I may rely on receiving the sum you just now mentioned to me?"
"Shall I receive it from my father?" asked Andrea, with some uneasiness.
"Yes, you will receive it from your father personally, but Lord Wilmore will be the security for the money. He has, at the request of your father, opened an account of 6,000 francs a month at M. Danglars', which is one of the safest banks in Paris."
"And does my father mean to remain long in Paris?" asked Andrea.
"Only a few days," replied Monte Cristo. "His service does not allow him to absent himself more than two or three weeks together."
"Ah, my dear father!" exclaimed Andrea, evidently charmed with the idea of his speedy departure.
"Therefore," said Monte Cristo feigning to mistake his meaning -- "therefore I will not, for another instant, retard the pleasure of your meeting. Are you prepared to embrace your worthy father?"
"I hope you do not doubt it."
"Go, then, into the drawing-room, my young friend, where you will find your father awaiting you." Andrea made a low bow to the count, and entered the adjoining room. Monte Cristo watched him till he disappeared, and then touched a spring in a panel made to look like a picture, which, in sliding partly from the frame, discovered to view a small opening, so cleverly contrived that it revealed all that was passing in the drawing-room now occupied by Cavalcanti and Andrea. The young man closed the door behind him, and advanced towards the major, who had risen when he heard steps approaching him. "Ah, my dear father!" said Andrea in a loud voice, in order that the count might hear him in the next room, "is it really you?"
"How do you do, my dear son?" said the major gravely.
"After so many years of painful separation," said Andrea, in the same tone of voice, and glancing towards the door, "what a happiness it is to meet again!"
"Indeed it is, after so long a separation."
"Will you not embrace me, sir?" said Andrea.
"If you wish it, my son," said the major; and the two men embraced each other after the fashion of actors on the stage; that is to say, each rested his head on the other's shoulder.
"Then we are once more reunited?" said Andrea.
"Once more," replied the major.
"Never more to be separated?"
"Why, as to that -- I think, my dear son, you must be by this time so accustomed to France as to look upon it almost as a second country."
"The fact is," said the young man, "that I should be exceedingly grieved to leave it."
"As for me, you must know I cannot possibly live out of Lucca; therefore I shall return to Italy as soon as I can."
"But before you leave France, my dear father, I hope you will put me in possession of the documents which will be necessary to prove my descent."
"Certainly; I am come expressly on that account; it has cost me much trouble to find you, but I had resolved on giving them into your hands, and if I had to recommence my search, it would occupy all the few remaining years of my life."
"Where are these papers, then?"
"Here they are."
Andrea seized the certificate of his father's marriage and his own baptismal register, and after having opened them with all the eagerness which might be expected under the circumstances, he read them with a facility which proved that he was accustomed to similar documents, and with an expression which plainly denoted an unusual interest in the contents. When he had perused the documents, an indefinable expression of pleasure lighted up his countenance, and looking at the major with a most peculiar smile, he said, in very excellent Tuscan, -- "Then there is no longer any such thing, in Italy as being condemned to the galleys?" The major drew himself up to his full height.
"Why? -- what do you mean by that question?"
"I mean that if there were, it would be impossible to draw up with impunity two such deeds as these. In France, my dear sir, half such a piece of effrontery as that would cause you to be quickly despatched to Toulon for five years, for change of air."
"Will you be good enough to explain your meaning?" said the major, endeavoring as much as possible to assume an air of the greatest majesty.
"My dear M. Cavalcanti," said Andrea, taking the major by the arm in a confidential manner, "how much are you paid for being my father?" The major was about to speak, when Andrea continued, in a low voice.
"Nonsense, I am going to set you an example of confidence, they give me 50,000 francs a year to be your son; consequently, you can understand that it is not at all likely I shall ever deny my parent." The major looked anxiously around him. "Make yourself easy, we are quite alone," said Andrea; "besides, we are conversing in
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