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    Chapter 57

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    Chapter 57
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    CHAPTER 57
    In the Lucerne Patch.

    Our readers must now allow us to transport them again to the
    enclosure surrounding M. de Villefort's house, and, behind
    the gate, half screened from view by the large
    chestnut-trees, which on all sides spread their luxuriant
    branches, we shall find some people of our acquaintance.
    This time Maximilian was the first to arrive. He was
    intently watching for a shadow to appear among the trees,
    and awaiting with anxiety the sound of a light step on the
    gravel walk. At length, the long-desired sound was heard,
    and instead of one figure, as he had expected, he perceived
    that two were approaching him. The delay had been occasioned
    by a visit from Madame Danglars and Eugenie, which had been
    prolonged beyond the time at which Valentine was expected.
    That she might not appear to fail in her promise to
    Maximilian, she proposed to Mademoiselle Danglars that they
    should take a walk in the garden, being anxious to show that
    the delay, which was doubtless a cause of vexation to him,
    was not occasioned by any neglect on her part. The young
    man, with the intuitive perception of a lover, quickly
    understood the circumstances in which she was involuntarily
    placed, and he was comforted. Besides, although she avoided
    coming within speaking distance, Valentine arranged so that
    Maximilian could see her pass and repass, and each time she
    went by, she managed, unperceived by her companion, to cast
    an expressive look at the young man, which seemed to say,
    "Have patience! You see it is not my fault." And Maximilian
    was patient, and employed himself in mentally contrasting
    the two girls, -- one fair, with soft languishing eyes, a
    figure gracefully bending like a weeping willow; the other a
    brunette, with a fierce and haughty expression, and as
    straight as a poplar. It is unnecessary to state that, in
    the eyes of the young man, Valentine did not suffer by the
    contrast. In about half an hour the girls went away, and
    Maximilian understood that Mademoiselle Danglars' visit had
    at last come to an end. In a few minutes Valentine
    re-entered the garden alone. For fear that any one should be
    observing her return, she walked slowly; and instead of
    immediately directing her steps towards the gate, she seated
    herself on a bench, and, carefully casting her eyes around,
    to convince herself that she was not watched, she presently
    arose, and proceeded quickly to join Maximilian.

    "Good-evening, Valentine," said a well-known voice.

    "Good-evening, Maximilian; I know I have kept you waiting,
    but you saw the cause of my delay."

    "Yes, I recognized Mademoiselle Danglars. I was not aware
    that you were so intimate with her."

    "Who told you we were intimate, Maximilian?"

    "No one, but you appeared to be so. From the manner in which
    you walked and talked together, one would have thought you
    were two school-girls telling your secrets to each other."

    "We were having a confidential conversation," returned
    Valentine; "she was owning to me her repugnance to the
    marriage with M. de Morcerf; and I, on the other hand, was
    confessing to her how wretched it made me to think of
    marrying M. d'Epinay."

    "Dear Valentine!"

    "That will account to you for the unreserved manner which
    you observed between me and Eugenie, as in speaking of the
    man whom I could not love, my thoughts involuntarily
    reverted to him on whom my affections were fixed."

    "Ah, how good you are to say so, Valentine! You possess a
    quality which can never belong to Mademoiselle Danglars. It
    is that indefinable charm which is to a woman what perfume
    is to the flower and flavor to the fruit, for the beauty of
    either is not the only quality we seek."

    "It is your love which makes you look upon everything in
    that light."

    "No, Valentine, I assure you such is not the case. I was
    observing you both when you were walking in the garden, and,
    on my honor, without at all wishing to depreciate the beauty
    of Mademoiselle Danglars, I cannot understand how any man
    can really love her."

    "The fact is, Maximilian, that I was there, and my presence
    had the effect of rendering you unjust in your comparison."

    "No; but tell me -- it is a question of simple curiosity,
    and which was suggested by certain ideas passing in my mind
    relative to Mademoiselle Danglars" --

    "I dare say it is something disparaging which you are going
    to say. It only proves how little indulgence we may expect
    from your sex," interrupted Valentine.

    "You cannot, at least, deny that you are very harsh judges
    of each other."

    "If we are so, it is because we generally judge under the
    influence of excitement. But return to your question."

    "Does Mademoiselle Danglars object to this marriage with M.
    de Morcerf on account of loving another?"

    "I told you I was not on terms of strict intimacy with
    Eugenie."

    "Yes, but girls tell each other secrets without being
    particularly intimate; own, now, that you did question her
    on the subject. Ah, I see you are smiling."

    "If you are already aware of the conversation that passed,
    the wooden partition which interposed between us and you has
    proved but a slight security."

    "Come, what did she say?"

    "She told me that she loved no one," said Valentine; "that
    she disliked the idea of being married; that she would
    infinitely prefer leading an independent and unfettered
    life; and that she almost wished her father might lose his
    fortune, that she might become an artist, like her friend,
    Mademoiselle Louise d'Armilly."

    "Ah, you see" --

    "Well, what does that prove?" asked Valentine.

    "Nothing," replied Maximilian.

    "Then why did you smile?"

    "Why, you know very well that you are reflecting on
    yourself, Valentine."

    "Do you want me to go away?"

    "Ah, no, no. But do not let us lose time; you are the
    subject on which I wish to speak."

    "True, we must be quick, for we have scarcely ten minutes
    more to pass together."

    "Ma foi," said Maximilian, in consternation.

    "Yes, you are right; I am but a poor friend to you. What a
    life I cause you to lead, poor Maximilian, you who are
    formed for happiness! I bitterly reproach myself, I assure
    you."

    "Well, what does it signify, Valentine, so long as I am
    satisfied, and feel that even this long and painful suspense
    is amply repaid by five minutes of your society, or two
    words from your lips? And I have also a deep conviction that
    heaven would not have created two hearts, harmonizing as
    ours do, and almost miraculously brought us together, to
    separate us at last."

    "Those are kind and cheering words. You must hope for us
    both, Maximilian; that will make me at least partly happy."

    "But why must you leave me so soon?"

    "I do not know particulars. I can only tell you that Madame
    de Villefort sent to request my presence, as she had a
    communication to make on which a part of my fortune
    depended. Let them take my fortune, I am already too rich;
    and, perhaps, when they have taken it, they will leave me in
    peace and quietness. You would love me as much if I were
    poor, would you not, Maximilian?"

    "Oh, I shall always love you. What should I care for either
    riches or poverty, if my Valentine was near me, and I felt
    certain that no one could deprive me of her? But do you not
    fear that this communication may relate to your marriage?"

    "I do not think that is the case."

    "However it may be, Valentine, you must not be alarmed. I
    assure you that, as long as I live, I shall never love any
    one else!"

    "You think to reassure me when you say that, Maximilian."

    "Pardon me, you are right. I am a brute. But I was going to
    tell you that I met M. de Morcerf the other day."

    "Well?"

    "Monsieur Franz is his friend, you know."

    "What then?"

    "Monsieur de Morcerf has received a letter from Franz,
    announcing his immediate return." Valentine turned pale, and
    leaned her hand against the gate. "Ah heavens, if it were
    that! But no, the communication would not come through
    Madame de Villefort."

    "Why not?"

    "Because -- I scarcely know why -- but it has appeared as if
    Madame de Villefort secretly objected to the marriage,
    although she did not choose openly to oppose it."

    "Is it so? Then I feel as if I could adore Madame de
    Villefort."

    "Do not be in such a hurry to do that," said Valentine, with
    a sad smile.

    "If she objects to your marrying M. d'Epinay, she would be
    all the more likely to listen to any other proposition."

    "No, Maximilian, it is not suitors to which Madame de
    Villefort objects, it is marriage itself."

    "Marriage? If she dislikes that so much, why did she ever
    marry herself?"

    "You do not understand me, Maximilian. About a year ago, I
    talked of retiring to a convent. Madame de Villefort, in
    spite of all the remarks which she considered it her duty to
    make, secretly approved of the proposition, my father
    consented to it at her instigation, and it was only on
    account of my poor grandfather that I finally abandoned the
    project. You can form no idea of the expression of that old
    man's eye when he looks at me, the only person in the world
    whom he loves, and, I had almost said, by whom he is beloved
    in return. When he learned my resolution, I shall never
    forget the reproachful look which he cast on me, and the
    tears of utter despair which chased each other down his
    lifeless cheeks. Ah, Maximilian, I experienced, at that
    moment, such remorse for my intention, that, throwing myself
    at his feet, I exclaimed, -- 'Forgive me, pray forgive me,
    my dear grandfather; they may do what they will with me, I
    will never leave you.' When I had ceased speaking, he
    thankfully raised his eyes to heaven, but without uttering a
    word. Ah, Maximilian, I may have much to suffer, but I feel
    as if my grandfather's look at that moment would more than
    compensate for all."

    "Dear Valentine, you are a perfect angel, and I am sure I do
    not know what I -- sabring right and left among the Bedouins
    -- can have done to merit your being revealed to me, unless,
    indeed, heaven took into consideration the fact that the
    victims of my sword were infidels. But tell me what interest
    Madame de Villefort can have in your remaining unmarried?"

    "Did I not tell you just now that I was rich, Maximilian --
    too rich? I possess nearly 50,000 livres in right of my
    mother; my grandfather and my grandmother, the Marquis and
    Marquise de Saint-Meran, will leave me as much, and M.
    Noirtier evidently intends making me his heir. My brother
    Edward, who inherits nothing from his mother, will,
    therefore, be poor in comparison with me. Now, if I had
    taken the veil, all this fortune would have descended to my
    father, and, in reversion, to his son."

    "Ah, how strange it seems that such a young and beautiful
    woman should be so avaricious."

    "It is not for herself that she is so, but for her son, and
    what you regard as a vice becomes almost a virtue when
    looked at in the light of maternal love."

    "But could you not compromise matters, and give up a portion
    of your fortune to her son?"

    "How could I make such a proposition, especially to a woman
    who always professes to be so entirely disinterested?"

    "Valentine, I have always regarded our love in the light of
    something sacred; consequently, I have covered it with the
    veil of respect, and hid it in the innermost recesses of my
    soul. No human being, not even my sister, is aware of its
    existence. Valentine, will you permit me to make a confidant
    of a friend and reveal to him the love I bear you?"

    Valentine started. "A friend, Maximilian; and who is this
    friend? I tremble to give my permission."

    "Listen, Valentine. Have you never experienced for any one
    that sudden and irresistible sympathy which made you feel as
    if the object of it had been your old and familiar friend,
    though, in reality, it was the first time you had ever met?
    Nay, further, have you never endeavored to recall the time,
    place, and circumstances of your former intercourse, and
    failing in this attempt, have almost believed that your
    spirits must have held converse with each other in some
    state of being anterior to the present, and that you are
    only now occupied in a reminiscence of the past?"

    "Yes."

    "Well, that is precisely the feeling which I experienced
    when I first saw that extraordinary man."

    "Extraordinary, did you say?"

    "Yes."

    "You have known him for some time, then?"

    "Scarcely longer than eight or ten days."

    "And do you call a man your friend whom you have only known
    for eight or ten days? Ah, Maximilian, I had hoped you set a
    higher value on the title of friend."

    "Your logic is most powerful, Valentine, but say what you
    will, I can never renounce the sentiment which has
    instinctively taken possession of my mind. I feel as if it
    were ordained that this man should be associated with all
    the good which the future may have in store for me, and
    sometimes it really seems as if his eye was able to see what
    was to come, and his hand endowed with the power of
    directing events according to his own will."

    "He must be a prophet, then," said Valentine, smiling.

    "Indeed," said Maximilian, "I have often been almost tempted
    to attribute to him the gift of prophecy; at all events, he
    has a wonderful power of foretelling any future good."

    "Ah," said Valentine in a mournful tone, "do let me see this
    man, Maximilian; he may tell me whether I shall ever be
    loved sufficiently to make amends for all I have suffered."

    "My poor girl, you know him already."

    "I know him?"

    "Yes; it was he who saved the life of your step-mother and
    her son."

    "The Count of Monte Cristo?"

    "The same."

    "Ah," cried Valentine, "he is too much the friend of Madame
    de Villefort ever to be mine."

    "The friend of Madame de Villefort! It cannot be; surely,
    Valentine, you are mistaken?"

    "No, indeed, I am not; for I assure you, his power over our
    household is almost unlimited. Courted by my step-mother,
    who regards him as the epitome of human wisdom; admired by
    my father, who says he has never before heard such sublime
    ideas so eloquently expressed; idolized by Edward, who,
    notwithstanding his fear of the count's large black eyes,
    runs to meet him the moment he arrives, and opens his hand,
    in which he is sure to find some delightful present, -- M.
    de Monte Cristo appears to exert a mysterious and almost
    uncontrollable influence over all the members of our
    family."

    "If such be the case, my dear Valentine, you must yourself
    have felt, or at all events will soon feel, the effects of
    his presence. He meets Albert de Morcerf in Italy -- it is
    to rescue him from the hands of the banditti; he introduces
    himself to Madame Danglars -- it is that he may give her a
    royal present; your step-mother and her son pass before his
    door -- it is that his Nubian may save them from
    destruction. This man evidently possesses the power of
    influencing events, both as regards men and things. I never
    saw more simple tastes united to greater magnificence. His
    smile is so sweet when he addresses me, that I forget it
    ever can be bitter to others. Ah, Valentine, tell me, if he
    ever looked on you with one of those sweet smiles? if so,
    depend on it, you will be happy."

    "Me?" said the young girl, "he never even glances at me; on
    the contrary, if I accidentally cross his path, he appears
    rather to avoid me. Ah, he is not generous, neither does he
    possess that supernatural penetration which you attribute to
    him, for if he did, he would have perceived that I was
    unhappy; and if he had been generous, seeing me sad and
    solitary, he would have used his influence to my advantage,
    and since, as you say, he resembles the sun, he would have
    warmed my heart with one of his life-giving rays. You say he
    loves you, Maximilian; how do you know that he does? All
    would pay deference to an officer like you, with a fierce
    mustache and a long sabre, but they think they may crush a
    poor weeping girl with impunity."

    "Ah, Valentine, I assure you you are mistaken."

    "If it were otherwise -- if he treated me diplomatically --
    that is to say, like a man who wishes, by some means or
    other, to obtain a footing in the house, so that he may
    ultimately gain the power of dictating to its occupants --
    he would, if it had been but once, have honored me with the
    smile which you extol so loudly; but no, he saw that I was
    unhappy, he understood that I could be of no use to him, and
    therefore paid no attention to me whatever. Who knows but
    that, in order to please Madame de Villefort and my father,
    he may not persecute me by every means in his power? It is
    not just that he should despise me so, without any reason.
    Ah, forgive me," said Valentine, perceiving the effect which
    her words were producing on Maximilian: "I have done wrong,
    for I have given utterance to thoughts concerning that man
    which I did not even know existed in my heart. I do not deny
    the influence of which you speak, or that I have not myself
    experienced it, but with me it has been productive of evil
    rather than good."

    "Well, Valentine," said Morrel with a sigh, "we will not
    discuss the matter further. I will not make a confidant of
    him."

    "Alas," said Valentine, "I see that I have given you pain. I
    can only say how sincerely I ask pardon for having griefed
    you. But, indeed, I am not prejudiced beyond the power of
    conviction. Tell me what this Count of Monte Cristo has done
    for you."

    "I own that your question embarrasses me, Valentine, for I
    cannot say that the count has rendered me any ostensible
    service. Still, as I have already told you I have an
    instinctive affection for him, the source of which I cannot
    explain to you. Has the sun done anything for me? No; he
    warms me with his rays, and it is by his light that I see
    you -- nothing more. Has such and such a perfume done
    anything for me? No; its odor charms one of my senses --
    that is all I can say when I am asked why I praise it. My
    friendship for him is as strange and unaccountable as his
    for me. A secret voice seems to whisper to me that there
    must be something more than chance in this unexpected
    reciprocity of friendship. In his most simple actions, as
    well as in his most secret thoughts, I find a relation to my
    own. You will perhaps smile at me when I tell you that, ever
    since I have known this man, I have involuntarily
    entertained the idea that all the good fortune which his
    befallen me originated from him. However, I have managed to
    live thirty years without this protection, you will say; but
    I will endeavor a little to illustrate my meaning. He
    invited me to dine with him on Saturday, which was a very
    natural thing for him to do. Well, what have I learned
    since? That your mother and M. de Villefort are both coming
    to this dinner. I shall meet them there, and who knows what
    future advantages may result from the interview? This may
    appear to you to be no unusual combination of circumstances;
    nevertheless, I perceive some hidden plot in the arrangement
    -- something, in fact, more than is apparent on a casual
    view of the subject. I believe that this singular man, who
    appears to fathom the motives of every one, has purposely
    arranged for me to meet M. and Madame de Villefort, and
    sometimes, I confess, I have gone so far as to try to read
    in his eyes whether he was in possession of the secret of
    our love."

    "My good friend," said Valentine, "I should take you for a
    visionary, and should tremble for your reason, if I were
    always to hear you talk in a strain similar to this. Is it
    possible that you can see anything more than the merest
    chance in this meeting? Pray reflect a little. My father,
    who never goes out, has several times been on the point of
    refusing this invitation; Madame de Villefort, on the
    contrary, is burning with the desire of seeing this
    extraordinary nabob in his own house, therefore, she has
    with great difficulty prevailed on my father to accompany
    her. No, no; it is as I have said, Maximilian, -- there is
    no one in the world of whom I can ask help but yourself and
    my grandfather, who is little better than a corpse."

    "I see that you are right, logically speaking," said
    Maximilian; "but the gentle voice which usually has such
    power over me fails to convince me to-day."

    "I feel the same as regards yourself." said Valentine; "and
    I own that, if you have no stronger proof to give me" --

    "I have another," replied Maximilian; "but I fear you will
    deem it even more absurd than the first."

    "So much the worse," said Valentine, smiling.

    "It is, nevertheless, conclusive to my mind. My ten years of
    service have also confirmed my ideas on the subject of
    sudden inspirations, for I have several times owed my life
    to a mysterious impulse which directed me to move at once
    either to the right or to the left, in order to escape the
    ball which killed the comrade fighting by my side, while it
    left me unharmed."

    "Dear Maximilian, why not attribute your escape to my
    constant prayers for your safety? When you are away, I no
    longer pray for myself, but for you."

    "Yes, since you have known me," said Morrel, smiling; "but
    that cannot apply to the time previous to our acquaintance,
    Valentine."

    "You are very provoking, and will not give me credit for
    anything; but let me hear this second proof, which you
    yourself own to be absurd."

    "Well, look through this opening, and you will see the
    beautiful new horse which I rode here."

    "Ah, what a beautiful creature!" cried Valentine; "why did
    you not bring him close to the gate, so that I could talk to
    him and pat him?"

    "He is, as you see, a very valuable animal," said
    Maximilian. "You know that my means are limited, and that I
    am what would be designated a man of moderate pretensions.
    Well, I went to a horse dealer's, where I saw this
    magnificent horse, which I have named Medeah. I asked the
    price; they told me it was 4,500 francs. I was, therefore,
    obliged to give it up, as you may imagine, but I own I went
    away with rather a heavy heart, for the horse had looked at
    me affectionately, had rubbed his head against me and, when
    I mounted him, had pranced in the most delightful way
    imaginable, so that I was altogether fascinated with him.
    The same evening some friends of mine visited me, -- M. de
    Chateau-Renaud, M. Debray, and five or six other choice
    spirits, whom you do not know, even by name. They proposed a
    game of bouillotte. I never play, for I am not rich enough
    to afford to lose, or sufficiently poor to desire to gain.
    But I was at my own house, you understand, so there was
    nothing to be done but to send for the cards, which I did.

    "Just as they were sitting down to table, M. de Monte Cristo
    arrived. He took his seat amongst them; they played, and I
    won. I am almost ashamed to say that my gains amounted to
    5,000 francs. We separated at midnight. I could not defer my
    pleasure, so I took a cabriolet and drove to the horse
    dealer's. Feverish and excited, I rang at the door. The
    person who opened it must have taken me for a madman, for I
    rushed at once to the stable. Medeah was standing at the
    rack, eating his hay. I immediately put on the saddle and
    bridle, to which operation he lent himself with the best
    grace possible; then, putting the 4,500 francs into the
    hands of the astonished dealer, I proceeded to fulfil my
    intention of passing the night in riding in the Champs
    Elysees. As I rode by the count's house I perceived a light
    in one of the windows, and fancied I saw the shadow of his
    figure moving behind the curtain. Now, Valentine, I firmly
    believe that he knew of my wish to possess this horse, and
    that he lost expressly to give me the means of procuring
    him."

    "My dear Maximilian, you are really too fanciful; you will
    not love even me long. A man who accustoms himself to live
    in such a world of poetry and imagination must find far too
    little excitement in a common, every-day sort of attachment
    such as ours. But they are calling me. Do you hear?"

    "Ah, Valentine," said Maximilian, "give me but one finger
    through this opening in the grating, one finger, the
    littlest finger of all, that I may have the happiness of
    kissing it."

    "Maximilian, we said we would be to each other as two
    voices, two shadows."

    "As you will, Valentine."

    "Shall you be happy if I do what you wish?"

    "Oh, yes!" Valentine mounted on a bench, and passed not only
    her finger but her whole hand through the opening.
    Maximilian uttered a cry of delight, and, springing
    forwards, seized the hand extended towards him, and
    imprinted on it a fervent and impassioned kiss. The little
    hand was then immediately withdrawn, and the young man saw
    Valentine hurrying towards the house, as though she were
    almost terrified at her own sensations.
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    Chapter 57
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