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- The Count of Monte Cristo - 250/309 -
is impossible that she can carry to such a point maternal love, or rather delirium. There are virtues which become crimes by exaggeration. No, she must have conceived some pathetic scene; she will come and throw herself between us; and what would be sublime here will there appear ridiculous." The blush of pride mounted to the count's forehead as this thought passed through his mind. "Ridiculous?" repeated he; "and the ridicule will fall on me. I ridiculous? No, I would rather die."
By thus exaggerating to his own mind the anticipated ill-fortune of the next day, to which he had condemned himself by promising Mercedes to spare her son, the count at last exclaimed, "Folly, folly, folly! -- to carry generosity so far as to put myself up as a mark for that young man to aim at. He will never believe that my death was suicide; and yet it is important for the honor of my memory, -- and this surely is not vanity, but a justifiable pride, -- it is important the world should know that I have consented, by my free will, to stop my arm, already raised to strike, and that with the arm which has been so powerful against others I have struck myself. It must be; it shall be."
Seizing a pen, he drew a paper from a secret drawer in his desk, and wrote at the bottom of the document (which was no other than his will, made since his arrival in Paris) a sort of codicil, clearly explaining the nature of his death. "I do this, O my God," said he, with his eyes raised to heaven, "as much for thy honor as for mine. I have during ten years considered myself the agent of thy vengeance, and other wretches, like Morcerf, Danglars, Villefort, even Morcerf himself, must not imagine that chance has freed them from their enemy. Let them know, on the contrary, that their punishment, which had been decreed by providence, is only delayed by my present determination, and although they escape it in this world, it awaits them in another, and that they are only exchanging time for eternity."
While he was thus agitated by gloomy uncertainties, -- wretched waking dreams of grief, -- the first rays of morning pierced his windows, and shone upon the pale blue paper on which he had just inscribed his justification of providence. It was just five o'clock in the morning when a slight noise like a stifled sigh reached his ear. He turned his head, looked around him, and saw no one; but the sound was repeated distinctly enough to convince him of its reality.
He arose, and quietly opening the door of the drawing-room, saw Haidee, who had fallen on a chair, with her arms hanging down and her beautiful head thrown back. She had been standing at the door, to prevent his going out without seeing her, until sleep, which the young cannot resist, had overpowered her frame, wearied as she was with watching. The noise of the door did not awaken her, and Monte Cristo gazed at her with affectionate regret. "She remembered that she had a son," said he; "and I forgot I had a daughter." Then, shaking his head sorrowfully, "Poor Haidee," said he; "she wished to see me, to speak to me; she has feared or guessed something. Oh, I cannot go without taking leave of her; I cannot die without confiding her to some one." He quietly regained his seat, and wrote under the other lines: --
"I bequeath to Maximilian Morrel, captain of Spahis, -- and son of my former patron, Pierre Morrel, shipowner at Marseilles, -- the sum of twenty millions, a part of which may be offered to his sister Julia and brother-in-law Emmanuel, if he does not fear this increase of fortune may mar their happiness. These twenty millions are concealed in my grotto at Monte Cristo, of which Bertuccio knows the secret. If his heart is free, and he will marry Haidee, the daughter of Ali Pasha of Yanina, whom I have brought up with the love of a father, and who has shown the love and tenderness of a daughter for me, he will thus accomplish my last wish. This will has already constituted Haidee heiress of the rest of my fortune, consisting of lands, funds in England, Austria, and Holland, furniture in my different palaces and houses, and which without the twenty millions and the legacies to my servants, may still amount to sixty millions."
He was finishing the last line when a cry behind him made him start, and the pen fell from his hand. "Haidee," said he, "did you read it?"
"Oh, my lord," said she, "why are you writing thus at such an hour? Why are you bequeathing all your fortune to me? Are you going to leave me?"
"I am going on a journey, dear child," said Monte Cristo, with an expression of infinite tenderness and melancholy; "and if any misfortune should happen to me"
The count stopped. "Well?" asked the young girl, with an authoritative tone the count had never observed before, and which startled him. "Well, if any misfortune happen to me," replied Monte Cristo, "I wish my daughter to be happy." Haidee smiled sorrowfully, and shook her head. "Do you think of dying, my lord?" said she.
"The wise man, my child, has said, `It is good to think of death.'"
"Well, if you die," said she, "bequeath your fortune to others, for if you die I shall require nothing;" and, taking the paper, she tore it in four pieces, and threw it into the middle of the room. Then, the effort having exhausted her strength, she fell not asleep this time, but fainting on the floor. The count leaned over her and raised her in his arms; and seeing that sweet pale face, those lovely eyes closed, that beautiful form motionless and to all appearance lifeless, the idea occurred to him for the first time, that perhaps she loved him otherwise than as a daughter loves a father.
"Alas," murmured he, with intense suffering, "I might, then, have been happy yet." Then he carried Haidee to her room, resigned her to the care of her attendants, and returning to his study, which he shut quickly this time, he again copied the destroyed will. As he was finishing, the sound of a cabriolet entering the yard was heard. Monte Cristo approached the window, and saw Maximilian and Emmanuel alight. "Good," said he; "it was time," -- and he sealed his will with three seals. A moment afterwards he heard a noise in the drawing-room, and went to open the door himself. Morrel was there; he had come twenty minutes before the time appointed. "I am perhaps come too soon, count," said he, "but I frankly acknowledge that I have not closed my eyes all night, nor has any one in my house. I need to see you strong in your courageous assurance, to recover myself." Monte Cristo could not resist this proof of affection; he not only extended his hand to the young man, but flew to him with open arms. "Morrel," said he, "it is a happy day for me, to feel that I am beloved by such a man as you. Good-morning, Emmanuel; you will come with me then, Maximilian?"
"Did you doubt it?" said the young captain.
"But if I were wrong" --
"I watched you during the whole scene of that challenge yesterday; I have been thinking of your firmness all night, and I said to myself that justice must be on your side, or man's countenance is no longer to be relied on."
"But, Morrel, Albert is your friend?"
"Simply an acquaintance, sir."
"You met on the same day you first saw me?"
"Yes, that is true; but I should not have recollected it if you had not reminded me."
"Thank you, Morrel." Then ringing the bell once, "Look." said he to Ali, who came immediately, "take that to my solicitor. It is my will, Morrel. When I am dead, you will go and examine it."
"What?" said Morrel, "you dead?"
"Yes; must I not be prepared for everything, dear friend? But what did you do yesterday after you left me?"
"I went to Tortoni's, where, as I expected, I found Beauchamp and Chateau-Renaud. I own I was seeking them."
"Why, when all was arranged?"
"Listen, count; the affair is serious and unavoidable."
"Did you doubt it!"
"No; the offence was public, and every one is already talking of it."
"Well, I hoped to get an exchange of arms, -- to substitute the sword for the pistol; the pistol is blind."
"Have you succeeded?" asked Monte Cristo quickly, with an imperceptible gleam of hope.
"No; for your skill with the sword is so well known."
"Ah? -- who has betrayed me?"
"The skilful swordsman whom you have conquered."
"And you failed?"
"They positively refused."
"Morrel," said the count, "have you ever seen me fire a pistol?"
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