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    Chapter 55

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    Chapter 55
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    CHAPTER 55
    Major Cavalcanti.

    Both the count and Baptistin had told the truth when they
    announced to Morcerf the proposed visit of the major, which
    had served Monte Cristo as a pretext for declining Albert's
    invitation. Seven o'clock had just struck, and M. Bertuccio,
    according to the command which had been given him, had two
    hours before left for Auteuil, when a cab stopped at the
    door, and after depositing its occupant at the gate,
    immediately hurried away, as if ashamed of its employment.
    The visitor was about fifty-two years of age, dressed in one
    of the green surtouts, ornamented with black frogs, which
    have so long maintained their popularity all over Europe. He
    wore trousers of blue cloth, boots tolerably clean, but not
    of the brightest polish, and a little too thick in the
    soles, buckskin gloves, a hat somewhat resembling in shape
    those usually worn by the gendarmes, and a black cravat
    striped with white, which, if the proprietor had not worn it
    of his own free will, might have passed for a halter, so
    much did it resemble one. Such was the picturesque costume
    of the person who rang at the gate, and demanded if it was
    not at No. 30 in the Avenue des Champs-Elysees that the
    Count of Monte Cristo lived, and who, being answered by the
    porter in the affirmative, entered, closed the gate after
    him, and began to ascend the steps.

    The small and angular head of this man, his white hair and
    thick gray mustaches, caused him to be easily recognized by
    Baptistin, who had received an exact description of the
    expected visitor, and who was awaiting him in the hall.
    Therefore, scarcely had the stranger time to pronounce his
    name before the count was apprised of his arrival. He was
    ushered into a simple and elegant drawing-room, and the
    count rose to meet him with a smiling air. "Ah, my dear sir,
    you are most welcome; I was expecting you."

    "Indeed," said the Italian, "was your excellency then aware
    of my visit?"

    "Yes; I had been told that I should see you to-day at seven
    o'clock."

    "Then you have received full information concerning my
    arrival?"

    "Of course."

    "Ah, so much the better, I feared this little precaution
    might have been forgotten."

    "What precaution?"

    "That of informing you beforehand of my coming."

    "Oh, no, it has not."

    "But you are sure you are not mistaken."

    "Very sure."

    "It really was I whom your excellency expected at seven
    o'clock this evening?"

    "I will prove it to you beyond a doubt."

    "Oh, no, never mind that," said the Italian; "it is not
    worth the trouble."

    "Yes, yes," said Monte Cristo. His visitor appeared slightly
    uneasy. "Let me see," said the count; "are you not the
    Marquis Bartolomeo Cavalcanti?"

    "Bartolomeo Cavalcanti," joyfully replied the Italian; "yes,
    I am really he."

    "Ex-major in the Austrian service?"

    "Was I a major?" timidly asked the old soldier.

    "Yes," said Monte Cristo "you were a major; that is the
    title the French give to the post which you filled in
    Italy."

    "Very good," said the major, "I do not demand more, you
    understand" --

    "Your visit here to-day is not of your own suggestion, is
    it?" said Monte Cristo.

    "No, certainly not."

    "You were sent by some other person?"

    "Yes."

    "By the excellent Abbe Busoni?"

    "Exactly so," said the delighted major.

    "And you have a letter?"

    "Yes, there it is."

    "Give it me, then;" and Monte Cristo took the letter, which
    he opened and read. The major looked at the count with his
    large staring eyes, and then took a survey of the apartment,
    but his gaze almost immediately reverted to the proprietor
    of the room. "Yes, yes, I see. 'Major Cavalcanti, a worthy
    patrician of Lucca, a descendant of the Cavalcanti of
    Florence,'" continued Monte Cristo, reading aloud,
    "'possessing an income of half a million.'" Monte Cristo
    raised his eyes from the paper, and bowed. "Half a million,"
    said he, "magnificent!"

    "Half a million, is it?" said the major.

    "Yes, in so many words; and it must be so, for the abbe
    knows correctly the amount of all the largest fortunes in
    Europe."

    "Be it half a million. then; but on my word of honor, I had
    no idea that it was so much."

    "Because you are robbed by your steward. You must make some
    reformation in that quarter."

    "You have opened my eyes," said the Italian gravely; "I will
    show the gentlemen the door." Monte Cristo resumed the
    perusal of the letter: --

    "'And who only needs one thing more to make him happy.'"

    "Yes, indeed but one!" said the major with a sigh.

    "'Which is to recover a lost and adored son.'"

    "A lost and adored son!"

    "'Stolen away in his infancy, either by an enemy of his
    noble family or by the gypsies.'"

    "At the age of five years!" said the major with a deep sigh,
    and raising his eye to heaven.

    "Unhappy father," said Monte Cristo. The count continued: --

    "'I have given him renewed life and hope, in the assurance
    that you have the power of restoring the son whom he has
    vainly sought for fifteen years.'" The major looked at the
    count with an indescribable expression of anxiety. "I have
    the power of so doing," said Monte Cristo. The major
    recovered his self-possession. "So, then," said he, "the
    letter was true to the end?"

    "Did you doubt it, my dear Monsieur Bartolomeo?"

    "No, indeed; certainly not; a good man, a man holding
    religious office, as does the Abbe Busoni, could not
    condescend to deceive or play off a joke; but your
    excellency has not read all."

    "Ah, true," said Monte Cristo "there is a postscript."

    "Yes, yes," repeated the major, "yes -- there -- is -- a --
    postscript."

    "'In order to save Major Cavalcanti the trouble of drawing
    on his banker, I send him a draft for 2,000 francs to defray
    his travelling expenses, and credit on you for the further
    sum of 48,000 francs, which you still owe me.'" The major
    awaited the conclusion of the postscript, apparently with
    great anxiety. "Very good," said the count.

    "He said 'very good,'" muttered the major, "then -- sir" --
    replied he.

    "Then what?" asked Monte Cristo.

    "Then the postscript" --

    "Well; what of the postscript?"

    "Then the postscript is as favorably received by you as the
    rest of the letter?"

    "Certainly; the Abbe Busoni and myself have a small account
    open between us. I do not remember if it is exactly 48,000
    francs, which I am still owing him, but I dare say we shall
    not dispute the difference. You attached great importance,
    then, to this postscript, my dear Monsieur Cavalcanti?"

    "I must explain to you," said the major, "that, fully
    confiding in the signature of the Abbe Busoni, I had not
    provided myself with any other funds; so that if this
    resource had failed me, I should have found myself very
    unpleasantly situated in Paris."

    "Is it possible that a man of your standing should be
    embarrassed anywhere?" said Monte Cristo.

    "Why, really I know no one," said the major.

    "But then you yourself are known to others?"

    "Yes, I am known, so that" --

    "Proceed, my dear Monsieur Cavalcanti."

    "So that you will remit to me these 48,000 francs?"

    "Certainly, at your first request." The major's eyes dilated
    with pleasing astonishment. "But sit down," said Monte
    Cristo; "really I do not know what I have been thinking of
    -- I have positively kept you standing for the last quarter
    of an hour."

    "Don't mention it." The major drew an arm-chair towards him,
    and proceeded to seat himself.

    "Now," said the count, "what will you take -- a glass of
    port, sherry, or Alicante?"

    "Alicante, if you please; it is my favorite wine."

    "I have some that is very good. You will take a biscuit with
    it, will you not?"

    "Yes, I will take a biscuit, as you are so obliging."

    Monte Cristo rang; Baptistin appeared. The count advanced to
    meet him. "Well?" said he in a low voice. "The young man is
    here," said the valet de chambre in the same tone.

    "Into what room did you take him?"

    "Into the blue drawing-room, according to your excellency's
    orders."

    "That's right; now bring the Alicante and some biscuits."

    Baptistin left the room. "Really," said the major, "I am
    quite ashamed of the trouble I am giving you."

    "Pray don't mention such a thing," said the count. Baptistin
    re-entered with glasses, wine, and biscuits. The count
    filled one glass, but in the other he only poured a few
    drops of the ruby-colored liquid. The bottle was covered
    with spiders' webs, and all the other signs which indicate
    the age of wine more truly than do wrinkles on a man's face.
    The major made a wise choice; he took the full glass and a
    biscuit. The count told Baptistin to leave the plate within
    reach of his guest, who began by sipping the Alicante with
    an expression of great satisfaction, and then delicately
    steeped his biscuit in the wine.

    "So, sir, you lived at Lucca, did you? You were rich, noble,
    held in great esteem -- had all that could render a man
    happy?"

    "All," said the major, hastily swallowing his biscuit,
    "positively all."

    "And yet there was one thing wanting in order to complete
    your happiness?"

    "Only one thing," said the Italian.

    "And that one thing, your lost child."

    "Ah," said the major, taking a second biscuit, "that
    consummation of my happiness was indeed wanting." The worthy
    major raised his eyes to heaven and sighed.

    "Let me hear, then," said the count, "who this deeply
    regretted son was; for I always understood you were a
    bachelor."

    "That was the general opinion, sir," said the major, "and I"
    --

    "Yes," replied the count, "and you confirmed the report. A
    youthful indiscretion, I suppose, which you were anxious to
    conceal from the world at large?" The major recovered
    himself, and resumed his usual calm manner, at the same time
    casting his eyes down, either to give himself time to
    compose his countenance, or to assist his imagination, all
    the while giving an under-look at the count, the protracted
    smile on whose lips still announced the same polite
    curiosity. "Yes," said the major, "I did wish this fault to
    be hidden from every eye."

    "Not on your own account, surely," replied Monte Cristo;
    "for a man is above that sort of thing?"

    "Oh, no, certainly not on my own account," said the major
    with a smile and a shake of the head.

    "But for the sake of the mother?" said the count.

    "Yes, for the mother's sake -- his poor mother!" cried the
    major, taking a third biscuit.

    "Take some more wine, my dear Cavalcanti," said the count,
    pouring out for him a second glass of Alicante; "your
    emotion has quite overcome you."

    "His poor mother," murmured the major, trying to get the
    lachrymal gland in operation, so as to moisten the corner of
    his eye with a false tear.

    "She belonged to one of the first families in Italy, I
    think, did she not?"

    "She was of a noble family of Fiesole, count."

    "And her name was" --

    "Do you desire to know her name?" --

    "Oh," said Monte Cristo "it would be quite superfluous for
    you to tell me, for I already know it."

    "The count knows everything," said the Italian, bowing.

    "Oliva Corsinari, was it not?"

    "Oliva Corsinari."

    "A marchioness?"

    "A marchioness."

    "And you married her at last, notwithstanding the opposition
    of her family?"

    "Yes, that was the way it ended."

    "And you have doubtless brought all your papers with you?"
    said Monte Cristo.

    "What papers?"

    "The certificate of your marriage with Oliva Corsinari, and
    the register of your child's birth."

    "The register of my child's birth?"

    "The register of the birth of Andrea Cavalcanti -- of your
    son; is not his name Andrea?"

    "I believe so," said the major.

    "What? You believe so?"

    "I dare not positively assert it, as he has been lost for so
    long a time."

    "Well, then," said Monte Cristo "you have all the documents
    with you?"

    "Your excellency, I regret to say that, not knowing it was
    necessary to come provided with these papers, I neglected to
    bring them."

    "That is unfortunate," returned Monte Cristo.

    "Were they, then, so necessary?"

    "They were indispensable."

    The major passed his hand across his brow. "Ah, per Bacco,
    indispensable, were they?"

    "Certainly they were; supposing there were to be doubts
    raised as to the validity of your marriage or the legitimacy
    of your child?"

    "True," said the major, "there might be doubts raised."

    "In that case your son would be very unpleasantly situated."

    "It would be fatal to his interests."

    "It might cause him to fail in some desirable matrimonial
    alliance."

    "O peccato!"

    "You must know that in France they are very particular on
    these points; it is not sufficient, as in Italy, to go to
    the priest and say, 'We love each other, and want you to
    marry us.' Marriage is a civil affair in France, and in
    order to marry in an orthodox manner you must have papers
    which undeniably establish your identity."

    "That is the misfortune! You see I have not these necessary
    papers."

    "Fortunately, I have them, though," said Monte Cristo.

    "You?"

    "Yes."

    "You have them?"

    "I have them."

    "Ah, indeed?" said the major, who, seeing the object of his
    journey frustrated by the absence of the papers, feared also
    that his forgetfulness might give rise to some difficulty
    concerning the 48,000 francs -- "ah, indeed, that is a
    fortunate circumstance; yes, that really is lucky, for it
    never occurred to me to bring them."

    "I do not at all wonder at it -- one cannot think of
    everything; but, happily, the Abbe Busoni thought for you."

    "He is an excellent person."

    "He is extremely prudent and thoughtful"

    "He is an admirable man," said the major; "and he sent them
    to you?"

    "Here they are."

    The major clasped his hands in token of admiration. "You
    married Oliva Corsinari in the church of San Paolo del
    Monte-Cattini; here is the priest's certificate."

    "Yes indeed, there it is truly," said the Italian, looking
    on with astonishment.

    "And here is Andrea Cavalcanti's baptismal register, given
    by the curate of Saravezza."

    "All quite correct."

    "Take these documents, then; they do not concern me. You
    will give them to your son, who will, of course, take great
    care of them."

    "I should think so, indeed! If he were to lose them" --

    "Well, and if he were to lose them?" said Monte Cristo.

    "In that case," replied the major, "it would be necessary to
    write to the curate for duplicates, and it would be some
    time before they could be obtained."

    "It would be a difficult matter to arrange," said Monte
    Cristo.

    "Almost an impossibility," replied the major.

    "I am very glad to see that you understand the value of
    these papers."

    "I regard them as invaluable."

    "Now," said Monte Cristo "as to the mother of the young man"
    --

    "As to the mother of the young man" -- repeated the Italian,
    with anxiety.

    "As regards the Marchesa Corsinari" --

    "Really," said the major, "difficulties seem to thicken upon
    us; will she be wanted in any way?"

    "No, sir," replied Monte Cristo; "besides, has she not" --

    "Yes, sir," said the major, "she has" --

    "Paid the last debt of nature?"

    "Alas, yes," returned the Italian.

    "I knew that," said Monte Cristo; "she has been dead these
    ten years."

    "And I am still mourning her loss," exclaimed the major,
    drawing from his pocket a checked handkerchief, and
    alternately wiping first the left and then the right eye.

    "What would you have?" said Monte Cristo; "we are all
    mortal. Now, you understand, my dear Monsieur Cavalcanti,
    that it is useless for you to tell people in France that you
    have been separated from your son for fifteen years. Stories
    of gypsies, who steal children, are not at all in vogue in
    this part of the world, and would not be believed. You sent
    him for his education to a college in one of the provinces,
    and now you wish him to complete his education in the
    Parisian world. That is the reason which has induced you to
    leave Via Reggio, where you have lived since the death of
    your wife. That will be sufficient."

    "You think so?"

    "Certainly."

    "Very well, then."

    "If they should hear of the separation" --

    "Ah, yes; what could I say?"

    "That an unfaithful tutor, bought over by the enemies of
    your family" --

    "By the Corsinari?"

    "Precisely. Had stolen away this child, in order that your
    name might become extinct."

    "That is reasonable, since he is an only son."

    "Well, now that all is arranged, do not let these newly
    awakened remembrances be forgotten. You have, doubtless,
    already guessed that I was preparing a surprise for you?"

    "An agreeable one?" asked the Italian.

    "Ah, I see the eye of a father is no more to be deceived
    than his heart."

    "Hum!" said the major.

    "Some one has told you the secret; or, perhaps, you guessed
    that he was here."

    "That who was here?"

    "Your child -- your son -- your Andrea!"

    "I did guess it," replied the major with the greatest
    possible coolness. "Then he is here?"

    "He is," said Monte Cristo; "when the valet de chambre came
    in just now, he told me of his arrival."

    "Ah, very well, very well," said the major, clutching the
    buttons of his coat at each exclamation.

    "My dear sir," said Monte Cristo, "I understand your
    emotion; you must have time to recover yourself. I will, in
    the meantime, go and prepare the young man for this
    much-desired interview, for I presume that he is not less
    impatient for it than yourself."

    "I should quite imagine that to be the case," said
    Cavalcanti.

    "Well, in a quarter of an hour he shall be with you."

    "You will bring him, then? You carry your goodness so far as
    even to present him to me yourself?"

    "No; I do not wish to come between a father and son. Your
    interview will be private. But do not be uneasy; even if the
    powerful voice of nature should be silent, you cannot well
    mistake him; he will enter by this door. He is a fine young
    man, of fair complexion -- a little too fair, perhaps --
    pleasing in manners; but you will see and judge for
    yourself."

    "By the way," said the major, "you know I have only the
    2,000 francs which the Abbe Busoni sent me; this sum I have
    expended upon travelling expenses, and" --

    "And you want money; that is a matter of course, my dear M.
    Cavalcanti. Well, here are 8,000 francs on account."

    The major's eyes sparkled brilliantly.

    "It is 40,000 francs which I now owe you," said Monte
    Cristo.

    "Does your excellency wish for a receipt?" said the major,
    at the same time slipping the money into the inner pocket of
    his coat.

    "For what?" said the count.

    "I thought you might want it to show the Abbe Busoni."

    "Well, when you receive the remaining 40,000, you shall give
    me a receipt in full. Between honest men such excessive
    precaution is, I think, quite unnecessary."

    "Yes, so it is, between perfectly upright people."

    "One word more," said Monte Cristo.

    "Say on."

    "You will permit me to make one remark?"

    "Certainly; pray do so."

    "Then I should advise you to leave off wearing that style of
    dress."

    "Indeed," said the major, regarding himself with an air of
    complete satisfaction.

    "Yes. It may be worn at Via Reggio; but that costume,
    however elegant in itself, has long been out of fashion in
    Paris."

    "That's unfortunate."

    "Oh, if you really are attached to your old mode of dress;
    you can easily resume it when you leave Paris."

    "But what shall I wear?"

    "What you find in your trunks."

    "In my trunks? I have but one portmanteau."

    "I dare say you have nothing else with you. What is the use
    of boring one's self with so many things? Besides an old
    soldier always likes to march with as little baggage as
    possible."

    "That is just the case -- precisely so."

    "But you are a man of foresight and prudence, therefore you
    sent your luggage on before you. It has arrived at the Hotel
    des Princes, Rue de Richelieu. It is there you are to take
    up your quarters."

    "Then, in these trunks" --

    "I presume you have given orders to your valet de chambre to
    put in all you are likely to need, -- your plain clothes and
    your uniform. On grand occasions you must wear your uniform;
    that will look very well. Do not forget your crosses. They
    still laugh at them in France, and yet always wear them, for
    all that."

    "Very well, very well," said the major, who was in ecstasy
    at the attention paid him by the count.

    "Now," said Monte Cristo, "that you have fortified yourself
    against all painful excitement, prepare yourself, my dear M.
    Cavalcanti, to meet your lost Andrea." Saying which Monte
    Cristo bowed, and disappeared behind the tapestry, leaving
    the major fascinated beyond expression with the delightful
    reception which he had received at the hands of the count.
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