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- The Count of Monte Cristo - 220/309 -
adopt the middle course of delay, which implies neither a rupture nor an engagement. Ma foi, there is no hurry. My daughter is only seventeen years old, and your son twenty-one. While we wait, time will be progressing, events will succeed each other; things which in the evening look dark and obscure, appear but too clearly in the light of morning, and sometimes the utterance of one word, or the lapse of a single day, will reveal the most cruel calumnies."
"Calumnies, did you say, sir?" cried Morcerf, turning livid with rage. "Does any one dare to slander me?"
"Monsieur, I told you that I considered it best to avoid all explanation."
"Then, sir, I am patiently to submit to your refusal?"
"Yes, sir, although I assure you the refusal is as painful for me to give as it is for you to receive, for I had reckoned on the honor of your alliance, and the breaking off of a marriage contract always injures the lady more than the gentleman."
"Enough, sir," said Morcerf, "we will speak no more on the subject." And clutching his gloves in anger, he left the apartment. Danglars observed that during the whole conversation Morcerf had never once dared to ask if it was on his own account that Danglars recalled his word. That evening he had a long conference with several friends; and M. Cavalcanti, who had remained in the drawing-room with the ladies, was the last to leave the banker's house.
The next morning, as soon as he awoke, Danglars asked for the newspapers; they were brought to him; he laid aside three or four, and at last fixed on the Impartial, the paper of which Beauchamp was the chief editor. He hastily tore off the cover, opened the journal with nervous precipitation, passed contemptuously over the Paris jottings, and arriving at the miscellaneous intelligence, stopped with a malicious smile, at a paragraph headed "We hear from Yanina." "Very good," observed Danglars, after having read the paragraph; "here is a little article on Colonel Fernand, which, if I am not mistaken, would render the explanation which the Comte de Morcerf required of me perfectly unnecessary."
At the same moment, that is, at nine o'clock in the morning, Albert de Morcerf, dressed in a black coat buttoned up to his chin, might have been seen walking with a quick and agitated step in the direction of Monte Cristo's house in the Champs Elysees. When he presented himself at the gate the porter informed him that the Count had gone out about half an hour previously. "Did he take Baptistin with him?"
"No, my lord."
"Call him, then; I wish to speak to him." The concierge went to seek the valet de chambre, and returned with him in an instant.
"My good friend," said Albert, "I beg pardon for my intrusion, but I was anxious to know from your own mouth if your master was really out or not."
"He is really out, sir," replied Baptistin.
"Out, even to me?"
"I know how happy my master always is to receive the vicomte," said Baptistin; "and I should therefore never think of including him in any general order."
"You are right; and now I wish to see him on an affair of great importance. Do you think it will be long before he comes in?"
"No, I think not, for he ordered his breakfast at ten o'clock."
"Well, I will go and take a turn in the Champs Elysees, and at ten o'clock I will return here; meanwhile, if the count should come in, will you beg him not to go out again without seeing me?"
"You may depend on my doing so, sir," said Baptistin.
Albert left the cab in which he had come at the count's door, intending to take a turn on foot. As he was passing the Allee des Veuves, he thought he saw the count's horses standing at Gosset's shooting-gallery; he approached, and soon recognized the coachman. "Is the count shooting in the gallery?" said Morcerf.
"Yes, sir," replied the coachman. While he was speaking, Albert had heard the report of two or three pistol-shots. He entered, and on his way met the waiter. "Excuse me, my lord," said the lad; "but will you have the kindness to wait a moment?"
"What for, Philip?" asked Albert, who, being a constant visitor there, did not understand this opposition to his entrance.
"Because the person who is now in the gallery prefers being alone, and never practices in the presence of any one."
"Not even before you, Philip? Then who loads his pistol?"
"It is he, then."
"Do you know this gentleman?"
"Yes, and I am come to look for him; he is a friend of mine."
"Oh, that is quite another thing, then. I will go immediately and inform him of your arrival." And Philip, urged by his own curiosity, entered the gallery; a second afterwards, Monte Cristo appeared on the threshold. "I ask your pardon, my dear count," said Albert, "for following you here, and I must first tell you that it was not the fault of your servants that I did so; I alone am to blame for the indiscretion. I went to your house, and they told me you were out, but that they expected you home at ten o'clock to breakfast. I was walking about in order to pass away the time till ten o'clock, when I caught sight of your carriage and horses."
"What you have just said induces me to hope that you intend breakfasting with me."
"No, thank you, I am thinking of other things besides breakfast just now; perhaps we may take that meal at a later hour and in worse company."
"What on earth are you talking of?"
"I am to fight to-day."
"I am going to fight" --
"Yes, I understand that, but what is the quarrel? People fight for all sorts of reasons, you know."
"I fight in the cause of honor."
"Ah, that is something serious."
"So serious, that I come to beg you to render me a service."
"What is it?"
"To be my second."
"That is a serious matter, and we will not discuss it here; let us speak of nothing till we get home. Ali, bring me some water." The count turned up his sleeves, and passed into the little vestibule where the gentlemen were accustomed to wash their hands after shooting. "Come in, my lord," said Philip in a low tone, "and I will show you something droll." Morcerf entered, and in place of the usual target, he saw some playing-cards fixed against the wall. At a distance Albert thought it was a complete suit, for he counted from the ace to the ten. "Ah, ha," said Albert, "I see you were preparing for a game of cards."
"No," said the count, "I was making a suit."
"How?" said Albert.
"Those are really aces and twos which you see, but my shots have turned them into threes, fives, sevens, eights, nines, and tens." Albert approached. In fact, the bullets had actually pierced the cards in the exact places which the painted signs would otherwise have occupied, the lines and distances being as regularly kept as if they had been ruled with pencil. "Diable," said Morcerf.
"What would you have, my dear viscount?" said Monte Cristo, wiping his hands on the towel which Ali had brought him; "I must occupy my leisure moments in some way or other. But come, I am waiting for you." Both men entered Monte Cristo's carriage, which in the course of a few minutes deposited them safely at No. 30. Monte Cristo took Albert into his study, and pointing to a seat, placed another for himself. "Now let us talk the matter over quietly," said the count.
"You see I am perfectly composed," said Albert.
"With whom are you going to fight?"
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