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    Chapter 39

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    Chapter 39
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    CHAPTER 39
    The Guests.

    In the house in the Rue du Helder, where Albert had invited
    the Count of Monte Cristo, everything was being prepared on
    the morning of the 21st of May to do honor to the occasion.
    Albert de Morcerf inhabited a pavilion situated at the
    corner of a large court, and directly opposite another
    building, in which were the servants' apartments. Two
    windows only of the pavilion faced the street; three other
    windows looked into the court, and two at the back into the
    garden. Between the court and the garden, built in the heavy
    style of the imperial architecture, was the large and
    fashionable dwelling of the Count and Countess of Morcerf. A
    high wall surrounded the whole of the hotel, surmounted at
    intervals by vases filled with flowers, and broken in the
    centre by a large gate of gilded iron, which served as the
    carriage entrance. A small door, close to the lodge of the
    concierge, gave ingress and egress to the servants and
    masters when they were on foot.

    It was easy to discover that the delicate care of a mother,
    unwilling to part from her son, and yet aware that a young
    man of the viscount's age required the full exercise of his
    liberty, had chosen this habitation for Albert. There were
    not lacking, however, evidences of what we may call the
    intelligent egoism of a youth who is charmed with the
    indolent, careless life of an only son, and who lives as it
    were in a gilded cage. By means of the two windows looking
    into the street, Albert could see all that passed; the sight
    of what is going on is necessary to young men, who always
    want to see the world traverse their horizon, even if that
    horizon is only a public thoroughfare. Then, should anything
    appear to merit a more minute examination, Albert de Morcerf
    could follow up his researches by means of a small gate,
    similar to that close to the concierge's door, and which
    merits a particular description. It was a little entrance
    that seemed never to have been opened since the house was
    built, so entirely was it covered with dust and dirt; but
    the well-oiled hinges and locks told quite another story.
    This door was a mockery to the concierge, from whose
    vigilance and jurisdiction it was free, and, like that
    famous portal in the "Arabian Nights," opening at the
    "Sesame" of Ali Baba, it was wont to swing backward at a
    cabalistic word or a concerted tap from without from the
    sweetest voices or whitest fingers in the world. At the end
    of a long corridor, with which the door communicated, and
    which formed the ante-chamber, was, on the right, Albert's
    breakfast-room, looking into the court, and on the left the
    salon, looking into the garden. Shrubs and creeping plants
    covered the windows, and hid from the garden and court these
    two apartments, the only rooms into which, as they were on
    the ground-floor, the prying eyes of the curious could
    penetrate. On the floor above were similar rooms, with the
    addition of a third, formed out of the ante-chamber; these
    three rooms were a salon, a boudoir, and a bedroom. The
    salon down-stairs was only an Algerian divan, for the use of
    smokers. The boudoir up-stairs communicated with the
    bed-chamber by an invisible door on the staircase; it was
    evident that every precaution had been taken. Above this
    floor was a large atelier, which had been increased in size
    by pulling down the partitions -- a pandemonium, in which
    the artist and the dandy strove for preeminence. There were
    collected and piled up all Albert's successive caprices,
    hunting-horns, bass-viols, flutes -- a whole orchestra, for
    Albert had had not a taste but a fancy for music; easels,
    palettes, brushes, pencils -- for music had been succeeded
    by painting; foils, boxing-gloves, broadswords, and
    single-sticks -- for, following the example of the
    fashionable young men of the time, Albert de Morcerf
    cultivated, with far more perseverance than music and
    drawing, the three arts that complete a dandy's education,
    i.e., fencing, boxing, and single-stick; and it was here
    that he received Grisier, Cook, and Charles Leboucher. The
    rest of the furniture of this privileged apartment consisted
    of old cabinets, filled with Chinese porcelain and Japanese
    vases, Lucca della Robbia faience, and Palissy platters; of
    old arm-chairs, in which perhaps had sat Henry IV. or Sully,
    Louis XIII. or Richelieu -- for two of these arm-chairs,
    adorned with a carved shield, on which were engraved the
    fleur-de-lis of France on an azure field evidently came from
    the Louvre, or, at least, some royal residence. Over these
    dark and sombre chairs were thrown splendid stuffs, dyed
    beneath Persia's sun, or woven by the fingers of the women
    of Calcutta or of Chandernagor. What these stuffs did there,
    it was impossible to say; they awaited, while gratifying the
    eyes, a destination unknown to their owner himself; in the
    meantime they filled the place with their golden and silky
    reflections. In the centre of the room was a Roller and
    Blanchet "baby grand" piano in rosewood, but holding the
    potentialities of an orchestra in its narrow and sonorous
    cavity, and groaning beneath the weight of the
    chefs-d'oeuvre of Beethoven, Weber, Mozart, Haydn, Gretry,
    and Porpora. On the walls, over the doors, on the ceiling,
    were swords, daggers, Malay creeses, maces, battle-axes;
    gilded, damasked, and inlaid suits of armor; dried plants,
    minerals, and stuffed birds, their flame-colored wings
    outspread in motionless flight, and their beaks forever
    open. This was Albert's favorite lounging place.

    However, the morning of the appointment, the young man had
    established himself in the small salon down-stairs. There,
    on a table, surrounded at some distance by a large and
    luxurious divan, every species of tobacco known, -- from the
    yellow tobacco of Petersburg to the black of Sinai, and so
    on along the scale from Maryland and Porto-Rico, to Latakia,
    -- was exposed in pots of crackled earthenware of which the
    Dutch are so fond; beside them, in boxes of fragrant wood,
    were ranged, according to their size and quality, pueros,
    regalias, havanas, and manillas; and, in an open cabinet, a
    collection of German pipes, of chibouques, with their amber
    mouth-pieces ornamented with coral, and of narghiles, with
    their long tubes of morocco, awaiting the caprice or the
    sympathy of the smokers. Albert had himself presided at the
    arrangement, or, rather, the symmetrical derangement, which,
    after coffee, the guests at a breakfast of modern days love
    to contemplate through the vapor that escapes from their
    mouths, and ascends in long and fanciful wreaths to the
    ceiling. At a quarter to ten, a valet entered; he composed,
    with a little groom named John, and who only spoke English,
    all Albert's establishment, although the cook of the hotel
    was always at his service, and on great occasions the
    count's chasseur also. This valet, whose name was Germain,
    and who enjoyed the entire confidence of his young master,
    held in one hand a number of papers, and in the other a
    packet of letters, which he gave to Albert. Albert glanced
    carelessly at the different missives, selected two written
    in a small and delicate hand, and enclosed in scented
    envelopes, opened them and perused their contents with some
    attention. "How did these letters come?" said he.

    "One by the post, Madame Danglars' footman left the other."

    "Let Madame Danglars know that I accept the place she offers
    me in her box. Wait; then, during the day, tell Rosa that
    when I leave the Opera I will sup with her as she wishes.
    Take her six bottles of different wine -- Cyprus, sherry,
    and Malaga, and a barrel of Ostend oysters; get them at
    Borel's, and be sure you say they are for me."

    "At what o'clock, sir, do you breakfast?"

    "What time is it now?"

    "A quarter to ten."

    "Very well, at half past ten. Debray will, perhaps, be
    obliged to go to the minister -- and besides" (Albert looked
    at his tablets), "it is the hour I told the count, 21st May,
    at half past ten; and though I do not much rely upon his
    promise, I wish to be punctual. Is the countess up yet?"

    "If you wish, I will inquire."

    "Yes, ask her for one of her liqueur cellarets, mine is
    incomplete; and tell her I shall have the honor of seeing
    her about three o'clock, and that I request permission to
    introduce some one to her." The valet left the room. Albert
    threw himself on the divan, tore off the cover of two or
    three of the papers, looked at the theatre announcements,
    made a face seeing they gave an opera, and not a ballet;
    hunted vainly amongst the advertisements for a new
    tooth-powder of which he had heard, and threw down, one
    after the other, the three leading papers of Paris,
    muttering, "These papers become more and more stupid every
    day." A moment after, a carriage stopped before the door,
    and the servant announced M. Lucien Debray. A tall young
    man, with light hair, clear gray eyes, and thin and
    compressed lips, dressed in a blue coat with beautifully
    carved gold buttons, a white neckcloth, and a tortoiseshell
    eye-glass suspended by a silken thread, and which, by an
    effort of the superciliary and zygomatic muscles, he fixed
    in his eye, entered, with a half-official air, without
    smiling or speaking. "Good-morning, Lucien, good-morning,"
    said Albert; "your punctuality really alarms me. What do I
    say? punctuality! You, whom I expected last, you arrive at
    five minutes to ten, when the time fixed was half-past! Has
    the ministry resigned?"

    "No, my dear fellow," returned the young man, seating
    himself on the divan; "reassure yourself; we are tottering
    always, but we never fall, and I begin to believe that we
    shall pass into a state of immobility, and then the affairs
    of the Peninsula will completely consolidate us."

    "Ah, true; you drive Don Carlos out of Spain."

    "No, no, my dear fellow, do not confound our plans. We take
    him to the other side of the French frontier, and offer him
    hospitality at Bourges."

    "At Bourges?"

    "Yes, he has not much to complain of; Bourges is the capital
    of Charles VII. Do you not know that all Paris knew it
    yesterday, and the day before it had already transpired on
    the Bourse, and M. Danglars (I do not know by what means
    that man contrives to obtain intelligence as soon as we do)
    made a million!"

    "And you another order, for I see you have a blue ribbon at
    your button-hole."

    "Yes; they sent me the order of Charles III.," returned
    Debray, carelessly.

    "Come, do not affect indifference, but confess you were
    pleased to have it."

    "Oh, it is very well as a finish to the toilet. It looks
    very neat on a black coat buttoned up."

    "And makes you resemble the Prince of Wales or the Duke of
    Reichstadt."

    "It is for that reason you see me so early."

    "Because you have the order of Charles III., and you wish to
    announce the good news to me?"

    "No, because I passed the night writing letters, -- five and
    twenty despatches. I returned home at daybreak, and strove
    to sleep; but my head ached and I got up to have a ride for
    an hour. At the Bois de Boulogne, ennui and hunger attacked
    me at once, -- two enemies who rarely accompany each other,
    and who are yet leagued against me, a sort of
    Carlo-republican alliance. I then recollected you gave a
    breakfast this morning, and here I am. I am hungry, feed me;
    I am bored, amuse me."

    "It is my duty as your host," returned Albert, ringing the
    bell, while Lucien turned over, with his gold-mounted cane,
    the papers that lay on the table. "Germain, a glass of
    sherry and a biscuit. In the meantime. my dear Lucien, here
    are cigars -- contraband, of course -- try them, and
    persuade the minister to sell us such instead of poisoning
    us with cabbage leaves."

    "Peste, I will do nothing of the kind; the moment they come
    from government you would find them execrable. Besides, that
    does not concern the home but the financial department.
    Address yourself to M. Humann, section of the indirect
    contributions, corridor A., No. 26."

    "On my word," said Albert, "you astonish me by the extent of
    your knowledge. Take a cigar."

    "Really, my dear Albert," replied Lucien, lighting a manilla
    at a rose-colored taper that burnt in a be beautifully
    enamelled stand -- "how happy you are to have nothing to do.
    You do not know your own good fortune!"

    "And what would you do, my dear diplomatist," replied
    Morcerf, with a slight degree of irony in his voice, "if you
    did nothing? What? private secretary to a minister, plunged
    at once into European cabals and Parisian intrigues; having
    kings, and, better still, queens, to protect, parties to
    unite, elections to direct; making more use of your cabinet
    with your pen and your telegraph than Napoleon did of his
    battle-fields with his sword and his victories; possessing
    five and twenty thousand francs a year, besides your place;
    a horse, for which Chateau-Renaud offered you four hundred
    louis, and which you would not part with; a tailor who never
    disappoints you; with the opera, the jockey-club, and other
    diversions, can you not amuse yourself? Well, I will amuse
    you."

    "How?"

    "By introducing to you a new acquaintance."

    "A man or a woman?"

    "A man."

    "I know so many men already."

    "But you do not know this man."

    "Where does he come from -- the end of the world?"

    "Farther still, perhaps."

    "The deuce! I hope he does not bring our breakfast with
    him."

    "Oh, no; our breakfast comes from my father's kitchen. Are
    you hungry?"

    "Humiliating as such a confession is, I am. But I dined at
    M. de Villefort's, and lawyers always give you very bad
    dinners. You would think they felt some remorse; did you
    ever remark that?"

    "Ah, depreciate other persons' dinners; you ministers give
    such splendid ones."

    "Yes; but we do not invite people of fashion. If we were not
    forced to entertain a parcel of country boobies because they
    think and vote with us, we should never dream of dining at
    home, I assure you."

    "Well, take another glass of sherry and another biscuit."

    "Willingly. Your Spanish wine is excellent. You see we were
    quite right to pacify that country."

    "Yes; but Don Carlos?"

    "Well, Don Carlos will drink Bordeaux, and in ten years we
    will marry his son to the little queen."

    "You will then obtain the Golden Fleece, if you are still in
    the ministry."

    "I think, Albert, you have adopted the system of feeding me
    on smoke this morning."

    "Well, you must allow it is the best thing for the stomach;
    but I hear Beauchamp in the next room; you can dispute
    together, and that will pass away the time."

    "About what?"

    "About the papers."

    "My dear friend," said Lucien with an air of sovereign
    contempt, "do I ever read the papers?"

    "Then you will dispute the more."

    "M. Beauchamp," announced the servant. "Come in, come in,"
    said Albert, rising and advancing to meet the young man.
    "Here is Debray, who detests you without reading you, so he
    says."

    "He is quite right," returned Beauchamp; "for I criticise
    him without knowing what he does. Good-day, commander!"

    "Ah, you know that already," said the private secretary,
    smiling and shaking hands with him.

    "Pardieu?"

    "And what do they say of it in the world?"

    "In which world? we have so many worlds in the year of grace
    1838."

    "In the entire political world, of which you are one of the
    leaders."

    "They say that it is quite fair, and that sowing so much
    red, you ought to reap a little blue."

    "Come, come, that is not bad!" said Lucien. "Why do you not
    join our party, my dear Beauchamp? With your talents you
    would make your fortune in three or four years."

    "I only await one thing before following your advice; that
    is, a minister who will hold office for six months. My dear
    Albert, one word, for I must give poor Lucien a respite. Do
    we breakfast or dine? I must go to the Chamber, for our life
    is not an idle one."

    "You only breakfast; I await two persons, and the instant
    they arrive we shall sit down to table."
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