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- The Count of Monte Cristo - 190/309 -


"Yes; summoned by M. de Villefort, who is apparently as anxious to get Mademoiselle Valentine married as M. Danglars is to see Mademoiselle Eugenie settled. It must be a very irksome office to be the father of a grown-up daughter; it seems to make one feverish, and to raise one's pulse to ninety beats a minute until the deed is done."

"But M. d'Epinay, unlike you, bears his misfortune patiently."

"Still more, he talks seriously about the matter, puts on a white tie, and speaks of his family. He entertains a very high opinion of M. and Madame de Villefort."

"Which they deserve, do they not?"

"I believe they do. M. de Villefort has always passed for a severe but a just man."

"There is, then, one," said Monte Cristo, "whom you do not condemn like poor Danglars?"

"Because I am not compelled to marry his daughter perhaps," replied Albert, laughing.

"Indeed, my dear sir," said Monte Cristo, "you are revoltingly foppish."

"I foppish? how do you mean?"

"Yes; pray take a cigar, and cease to defend yourself, and to struggle to escape marrying Mademoiselle Danglars. Let things take their course; perhaps you may not have to retract."

"Bah," said Albert, staring.

"Doubtless, my dear viscount, you will not be taken by force; and seriously, do you wish to break off your engagement?"

"I would give a hundred thousand francs to be able to do so."

"Then make yourself quite easy. M. Danglars would give double that sum to attain the same end."

"Am I, indeed, so happy?" said Albert, who still could not prevent an almost imperceptible cloud passing across his brow. "But, my dear count, has M. Danglars any reason?"

"Ah, there is your proud and selfish nature. You would expose the self-love of another with a hatchet, but you shrink if your own is attacked with a needle."

"But yet M. Danglars appeared" --

"Delighted with you, was he not? Well, he is a man of bad taste, and is still more enchanted with another. I know not whom; look and judge for yourself."

"Thank you, I understand. But my mother -- no, not my mother; I mistake -- my father intends giving a ball."

"A ball at this season?"

"Summer balls are fashionable."

"If they were not, the countess has only to wish it, and they would become so."

"You are right; You know they are select affairs; those who remain in Paris in July must be true Parisians. Will you take charge of our invitation to Messieurs Cavalcanti?"

"When will it take place?"

"On Saturday."

"M. Cavalcanti's father will be gone."

"But the son will be here; will you invite young M. Cavalcanti?"

"I do not know him, viscount."

"You do not know him?"

"No, I never saw him until a few days since, and am not responsible for him."

"But you receive him at your house?"

"That is another thing: he was recommended to me by a good abbe, who may be deceived. Give him a direct invitation, but do not ask me to present him. If he were afterwards to marry Mademoiselle Danglars, you would accuse me of intrigue, and would be challenging me, -- besides, I may not be there myself."

"Where?"

"At your ball."

"Why should you not be there?"

"Because you have not yet invited me."

"But I come expressly for that purpose."

"You are very kind, but I may be prevented."

"If I tell you one thing, you will be so amiable as to set aside all impediments."

"Tell me what it is."

"My mother begs you to come."

"The Comtesse de Morcerf?" said Monte Cristo, starting.

"Ah, count," said Albert, "I assure you Madame de Morcerf speaks freely to me, and if you have not felt those sympathetic fibres of which I spoke just now thrill within you, you must be entirely devoid of them, for during the last four days we have spoken of no one else."

"You have talked of me?"

"Yes, that is the penalty of being a living puzzle!"

"Then I am also a puzzle to your mother? I should have thought her too reasonable to be led by imagination."

"A problem, my dear count, for every one -- for my mother as well as others; much studied, but not solved, you still remain an enigma, do not fear. My mother is only astonished that you remain so long unsolved. I believe, while the Countess G---- takes you for Lord Ruthven, my mother imagines you to be Cagliostro or the Count Saint-Germain. The first opportunity you have, confirm her in her opinion; it will be easy for you, as you have the philosophy of the one and the wit of the other."

"I thank you for the warning," said the count; "I shall endeavor to be prepared for all suppositions."

"You will, then, come on Saturday?"

"Yes, since Madame de Morcerf invites me."

"You are very kind."

"Will M. Danglars be there?"

"He has already been invited by my father. We shall try to persuade the great d'Aguesseau,* M. de Villefort, to come, but have not much hope of seeing him."

"`Never despair of anything,' says the proverb."

* Magistrate and orator of great eloquence -- chancellor of France under Louis XV.

"Do you dance, count?"

"I dance?"

"Yes, you; it would not be astonishing."

"That is very well before one is over forty. No, I do not dance, but I like to see others do so. Does Madame de Morcerf dance?"

"Never; you can talk to her, she so delights in your conversation."

"Indeed?"

"Yes, truly; and I assure you. You are the only man of whom I have heard her speak with interest." Albert rose and took his hat; the count conducted him to the door. "I have one thing to reproach myself with," said he, stopping Albert on the steps. "What is it?"

"I have spoken to you indiscreetly about Danglars."

"On the contrary, speak to me always in the same strain about him."

"I am glad to be reassured on that point. Apropos, when do you aspect M. d'Epinay?"

"Five or six days hence at the latest."

"And when is he to be married?"

"Immediately on the arrival of M. and Madame de Saint-Meran."


The Count of Monte Cristo - 190/309

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