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- The Count of Monte Cristo - 309/309 -
Monte Cristo turned around; Haidee was standing pale, motionless, looking at the count with an expression of fearful amazement.
"Because to-morrow, Haidee, you will be free; you will then assume your proper position in society, for I will not allow my destiny to overshadow yours. Daughter of a prince, I restore to you the riches and name of your father."
Haidee became pale, and lifting her transparent hands to heaven, exclaimed in a voice stifled with tears, "Then you leave me, my lord?"
"Haidee, Haidee, you are young and beautiful; forget even my name, and be happy."
"It is well," said Haidee; "your order shall be executed, my lord; I will forget even your name, and be happy." And she stepped back to retire.
"Oh, heavens," exclaimed Valentine, who was supporting the head of Morrel on her shoulder, "do you not see how pale she is? Do you not see how she suffers?"
Haidee answered with a heartrending expression, "Why should he understand this, my sister? He is my master, and I am his slave; he has the right to notice nothing."
The count shuddered at the tones of a voice which penetrated the inmost recesses of his heart; his eyes met those of the young girl and he could not bear their brilliancy. "Oh, heavens," exclaimed Monte Cristo, "can my suspicions be correct? Haidee, would it please you not to leave me?"
"I am young," gently replied Haidee; "I love the life you have made so sweet to me, and I should be sorry to die."
"You mean, then, that if I leave you, Haidee" --
"I should die; yes, my lord."
"Do you then love me?"
"Oh, Valentine, he asks if I love him. Valentine, tell him if you love Maximilian." The count felt his heart dilate and throb; he opened his arms, and Haidee, uttering a cry, sprang into them. "Oh, yes," she cried, "I do love you! I love you as one loves a father, brother, husband! I love you as my life, for you are the best, the noblest of created beings!"
"Let it be, then, as you wish, sweet angel; God has sustained me in my struggle with my enemies, and has given me this reward; he will not let me end my triumph in suffering; I wished to punish myself, but he has pardoned me. Love me then, Haidee! Who knows? perhaps your love will make me forget all that I do not wish to remember."
"What do you mean, my lord?"
"I mean that one word from you has enlightened me more than twenty years of slow experience; I have but you in the world, Haidee; through you I again take hold on life, through you I shall suffer, through you rejoice."
"Do you hear him, Valentine?" exclaimed Haidee; "he says that through me he will suffer -- through me, who would yield my life for his." The count withdrew for a moment. "Have I discovered the truth?" he said; "but whether it be for recompense or punishment, I accept my fate. Come, Haidee, come!" and throwing his arm around the young girl's waist, he pressed the hand of Valentine, and disappeared.
An hour had nearly passed, during which Valentine, breathless and motionless, watched steadfastly over Morrel. At length she felt his heart beat, a faint breath played upon his lips, a slight shudder, announcing the return of life, passed through the young man's frame. At length his eyes opened, but they were at first fixed and expressionless; then sight returned, and with it feeling and grief. "Oh," he cried, in an accent of despair, "the count has deceived me; I am yet living;" and extending his hand towards the table, he seized a knife.
"Dearest," exclaimed Valentine, with her adorable smile, "awake, and look at me!" Morrel uttered a loud exclamation, and frantic, doubtful, dazzled, as though by a celestial vision, he fell upon his knees.
The next morning at daybreak, Valentine and Morrel were walking arm-in-arm on the sea-shore, Valentine relating how Monte Cristo had appeared in her room, explained everything, revealed the crime, and, finally, how he had saved her life by enabling her to simulate death. They had found the door of the grotto opened, and gone forth; on the azure dome of heaven still glittered a few remaining stars. Morrel soon perceived a man standing among the rocks, apparently awaiting a sign from them to advance, and pointed him out to Valentine. "Ah, it is Jacopo," she said, "the captain of the yacht;" and she beckoned him towards them.
"Do you wish to speak to us?" asked Morrel.
"I have a letter to give you from the count."
"From the count!" murmured the two young people.
"Yes; read it." Morrel opened the letter, and read: --
"My Dear Maximilian, --
"There is a felucca for you at anchor. Jacopo will carry you to Leghorn, where Monsieur Noirtier awaits his granddaughter, whom he wishes to bless before you lead her to the altar. All that is in this grotto, my friend, my house in the Champs Elysees, and my chateau at Treport, are the marriage gifts bestowed by Edmond Dantes upon the son of his old master, Morrel. Mademoiselle de Villefort will share them with you; for I entreat her to give to the poor the immense fortune reverting to her from her father, now a madman, and her brother who died last September with his mother. Tell the angel who will watch over your future destiny, Morrel, to pray sometimes for a man, who like Satan thought himself for an instant equal to God, but who now acknowledges with Christian humility that God alone possesses supreme power and infinite wisdom. Perhaps those prayers may soften the remorse he feels in his heart. As for you, Morrel, this is the secret of my conduct towards you. There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of living.
"Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget that until the day when God shall deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is summed up in these two words, -- `Wait and hope.' Your friend,
"Edmond Dantes, Count of Monte Cristo."
During the perusal of this letter, which informed Valentine for the first time of the madness of her father and the death of her brother, she became pale, a heavy sigh escaped from her bosom, and tears, not the less painful because they were silent, ran down her cheeks; her happiness cost her very dear. Morrel looked around uneasily. "But," he said, "the count's generosity is too overwhelming; Valentine will be satisfied with my humble fortune. Where is the count, friend? Lead me to him." Jacopo pointed towards the horizon. "What do you mean?" asked Valentine. "Where is the count? -- where is Haidee?"
"Look!" said Jacopo.
The eyes of both were fixed upon the spot indicated by the sailor, and on the blue line separating the sky from the Mediterranean Sea, they perceived a large white sail. "Gone," said Morrel; "gone! -- adieu, my friend -- adieu, my father!"
"Gone," murmured Valentine; "adieu, my sweet Haidee -- adieu, my sister!"
"Who can say whether we shall ever see them again?" said Morrel with tearful eyes.
"Darling," replied Valentine, "has not the count just told us that all human wisdom is summed up in two words? -- `Wait and hope.'"
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