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    Chapter 70

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    Chapter 70
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    CHAPTER 70
    The Ball.

    It was in the warmest days of July, when in due course of
    time the Saturday arrived upon which the ball was to take
    place at M. de Morcerf's. It was ten o'clock at night; the
    branches of the great trees in the garden of the count's
    house stood out boldly against the azure canopy of heaven,
    which was studded with golden stars, but where the last
    fleeting clouds of a vanishing storm yet lingered. From the
    apartments on the ground-floor might be heard the sound of
    music, with the whirl of the waltz and galop, while
    brilliant streams of light shone through the openings of the
    Venetian blinds. At this moment the garden was only occupied
    by about ten servants, who had just received orders from
    their mistress to prepare the supper, the serenity of the
    weather continuing to increase. Until now, it had been
    undecided whether the supper should take place in the
    dining-room, or under a long tent erected on the lawn, but
    the beautiful blue sky, studded with stars, had settled the
    question in favor of the lawn. The gardens were illuminated
    with colored lanterns, according to the Italian custom, and,
    as is usual in countries where the luxuries of the table --
    the rarest of all luxuries in their complete form -- are
    well understood, the supper-table was loaded with wax-lights
    and flowers.

    At the time the Countess of Morcerf returned to the rooms,
    after giving her orders, many guests were arriving, more
    attracted by the charming hospitality of the countess than
    by the distinguished position of the count; for, owing to
    the good taste of Mercedes, one was sure of finding some
    devices at her entertainment worthy of describing, or even
    copying in case of need. Madame Danglars, in whom the events
    we have related had caused deep anxiety, had hesitated about
    going to Madame de Morcerf's, when during the morning her
    carriage happened to meet that of Villefort. The latter made
    a sign, and when the carriages had drawn close together,
    said, -- "You are going to Madame de Morcerf's, are you
    not?"

    "No," replied Madame Danglars, "I am too ill."

    "You are wrong," replied Villefort, significantly; "it is
    important that you should be seen there."

    "Do you think so?" asked the baroness.

    "I do."

    "In that case I will go." And the two carriages passed on
    towards their different destinations. Madame Danglars
    therefore came, not only beautiful in person, but radiant
    with splendor; she entered by one door at the time when
    Mercedes appeared at the door. The countess took Albert to
    meet Madame Danglars. He approached, paid her some well
    merited compliments on her toilet, and offered his arm to
    conduct her to a seat. Albert looked around him. "You are
    looking for my daughter?" said the baroness, smiling.

    "I confess it," replied Albert. "Could you have been so
    cruel as not to bring her?"

    "Calm yourself. She has met Mademoiselle de Villefort, and
    has taken her arm; see, they are following us, both in white
    dresses, one with a bouquet of camellias, the other with one
    of myosotis. But tell me" --

    "Well, what do you wish to know?"

    "Will not the Count of Monte Cristo be here to-night?"

    "Seventeen!" replied Albert.

    "What do you mean?"

    "I only mean that the count seems the rage," replied the
    viscount, smiling, "and that you are the seventeenth person
    that has asked me the same question. The count is in
    fashion; I congratulate him upon it."

    "And have you replied to every one as you have to me?"

    "Ah, to be sure, I have not answered you; be satisfied, we
    shall have this 'lion;' we are among the privileged ones."

    "Were you at the opera yesterday?"

    "No."

    "He was there."

    "Ah, indeed? And did the eccentric person commit any new
    originality?"

    "Can he be seen without doing so? Elssler was dancing in the
    'Diable Boiteux;' the Greek princess was in ecstasies. After
    the cachucha he placed a magnificent ring on the stem of a
    bouquet, and threw it to the charming danseuse, who, in the
    third act, to do honor to the gift, reappeared with it on
    her finger. And the Greek princess, -- will she be here?"

    "No, you will be deprived of that pleasure; her position in
    the count's establishment is not sufficiently understood."

    "Wait; leave me here, and go and speak to Madame de
    Villefort, who is trying to attract your attention."

    Albert bowed to Madame Danglars, and advanced towards Madame
    de Villefort, whose lips opened as he approached. "I wager
    anything," said Albert, interrupting her, "that I know what
    you were about to say."

    "Well, what is it?"

    "If I guess rightly, will you confess it?"

    "Yes."

    "On your honor?"

    "On my honor."

    "You were going to ask me if the Count of Monte Cristo had
    arrived, or was expected."

    "Not at all. It is not of him that I am now thinking. I was
    going to ask you if you had received any news of Monsieur
    Franz."

    "Yes, -- yesterday."

    "What did he tell you?"

    "That he was leaving at the same time as his letter."

    "Well, now then, the count?"

    "The count will come, of that you may be satisfied."

    "You know that he has another name besides Monte Cristo?"

    "No, I did not know it."

    "Monte Cristo in the name of an island, and he has a family
    name."

    "I never heard it."

    "Well, then, I am better informed than you; his name is
    Zaccone."

    "It is possible."

    "He is a Maltese."

    "That is also possible.

    "The son of a shipowner."

    "Really, you should relate all this aloud, you would have
    the greatest success."

    "He served in India, discovered a mine in Thessaly, and
    comes to Paris to establish a mineral water-cure at
    Auteuil."

    "Well, I'm sure," said Morcerf, "this is indeed news! Am I
    allowed to repeat it?"

    "Yes, but cautiously, tell one thing at a time, and do not
    say I told you."

    "Why so?"

    "Because it is a secret just discovered."

    "By whom?"

    "The police."

    "Then the news originated" --

    "At the prefect's last night. Paris, you can understand, is
    astonished at the sight of such unusual splendor, and the
    police have made inquiries."

    "Well, well! Nothing more is wanting than to arrest the
    count as a vagabond, on the pretext of his being too rich."

    "Indeed, that doubtless would have happened if his
    credentials had not been so favorable."

    "Poor count! And is he aware of the danger he has been in?"

    "I think not."

    "Then it will be but charitable to inform him. When he
    arrives, I will not fail to do so."

    Just then, a handsome young man, with bright eyes, black
    hair, and glossy mustache, respectfully bowed to Madame de
    Villefort. Albert extended his hand. "Madame," said Albert,
    "allow me to present to you M. Maximilian Morrel, captain of
    Spahis, one of our best, and, above all, of our bravest
    officers."

    "I have already had the pleasure of meeting this gentleman
    at Auteuil, at the house of the Count of Monte Cristo,"
    replied Madame de Villefort, turning away with marked
    coldness of manner. This answer, and especially the tone in
    which it was uttered, chilled the heart of poor Morrel. But
    a recompense was in store for him; turning around, he saw
    near the door a beautiful fair face, whose large blue eyes
    were, without any marked expression, fixed upon him, while
    the bouquet of myosotis was gently raised to her lips.

    The salutation was so well understood that Morrel, with the
    same expression in his eyes, placed his handkerchief to his
    mouth; and these two living statues, whose hearts beat so
    violently under their marble aspect, separated from each
    other by the whole length of the room, forgot themselves for
    a moment, or rather forgot the world in their mutual
    contemplation. They might have remained much longer lost in
    one another, without any one noticing their abstraction. The
    Count of Monte Cristo had just entered.

    We have already said that there was something in the count
    which attracted universal attention wherever he appeared. It
    was not the coat, unexceptional in its cut, though simple
    and unornamented; it was not the plain white waistcoat; it
    was not the trousers, that displayed the foot so perfectly
    formed -- it was none of these things that attracted the
    attention, -- it was his pale complexion, his waving black
    hair, his calm and serene expression, his dark and
    melancholy eye, his mouth, chiselled with such marvellous
    delicacy, which so easily expressed such high disdain, --
    these were what fixed the attention of all upon him. Many
    men might have been handsomer, but certainly there could be
    none whose appearance was more significant, if the
    expression may be used. Everything about the count seemed to
    have its meaning, for the constant habit of thought which he
    had acquired had given an ease and vigor to the expression
    of his face, and even to the most trifling gesture, scarcely
    to be understood. Yet the Parisian world is so strange, that
    even all this might not have won attention had there not
    been connected with it a mysterious story gilded by an
    immense fortune.

    Meanwhile he advanced through the assemblage of guests under
    a battery of curious glances towards Madame de Morcerf, who,
    standing before a mantle-piece ornamented with flowers, had
    seen his entrance in a looking-glass placed opposite the
    door, and was prepared to receive him. She turned towards
    him with a serene smile just at the moment he was bowing to
    her. No doubt she fancied the count would speak to her,
    while on his side the count thought she was about to address
    him; but both remained silent, and after a mere bow, Monte
    Cristo directed his steps to Albert, who received him
    cordially. "Have you seen my mother?" asked Albert.

    "I have just had the pleasure," replied the count; "but I
    have not seen your father."

    "See, he is down there, talking politics with that little
    group of great geniuses."

    "Indeed?" said Monte Cristo; "and so those gentlemen down
    there are men of great talent. I should not have guessed it.
    And for what kind of talent are they celebrated? You know
    there are different sorts."

    "That tall, harsh-looking man is very learned, he
    discovered, in the neighborhood of Rome, a kind of lizard
    with a vertebra more than lizards usually have, and he
    immediately laid his discovery before the Institute. The
    thing was discussed for a long time, but finally decided in
    his favor. I can assure you the vertebra made a great noise
    in the learned world, and the gentleman, who was only a
    knight of the Legion of Honor, was made an officer."

    "Come," said Monte Cristo, "this cross seems to me to be
    wisely awarded. I suppose, had he found another additional
    vertebra, they would have made him a commander."

    "Very likely," said Albert.

    "And who can that person be who has taken it into his head
    to wrap himself up in a blue coat embroidered with green?"

    "Oh, that coat is not his own idea; it is the Republic's,
    which deputed David* to devise a uniform for the
    Academicians."

    * Louis David, a famous French painter.

    "Indeed?" said Monte Cristo; "so this gentleman is an
    Academician?"

    "Within the last week he has been made one of the learned
    assembly."

    "And what is his especial talent?"

    "His talent? I believe he thrusts pins through the heads of
    rabbits, he makes fowls eat madder, and punches the spinal
    marrow out of dogs with whalebone."

    "And he is made a member of the Academy of Sciences for
    this?"

    "No; of the French Academy."

    "But what has the French Academy to do with all this?"

    "I was going to tell you. It seems" --

    "That his experiments have very considerably advanced the
    cause of science, doubtless?"

    "No; that his style of writing is very good."

    "This must be very flattering to the feelings of the rabbits
    into whose heads he has thrust pins, to the fowls whose
    bones he has dyed red, and to the dogs whose spinal marrow
    he has punched out?"

    Albert laughed.

    "And the other one?" demanded the count.

    "That one?"

    "Yes, the third."

    "The one in the dark blue coat?"

    "Yes."

    "He is a colleague of the count, and one of the most active
    opponents to the idea of providing the Chamber of Peers with
    a uniform. He was very successful upon that question. He
    stood badly with the Liberal papers, but his noble
    opposition to the wishes of the court is now getting him
    into favor with the journalists. They talk of making him an
    ambassador."

    "And what are his claims to the peerage?"

    "He has composed two or three comic operas, written four or
    five articles in the Siecle, and voted five or six years on
    the ministerial side."

    "Bravo, Viscount," said Monte Cristo, smiling; "you are a
    delightful cicerone. And now you will do me a favor, will
    you not?"

    "What is it?"

    "Do not introduce me to any of these gentlemen; and should
    they wish it, you will warn me." Just then the count felt
    his arm pressed. He turned round; it was Danglars.

    "Ah, is it you, baron?" said he.

    "Why do you call me baron?" said Danglars; "you know that I
    care nothing for my title. I am not like you, viscount; you
    like your title, do you not?"

    "Certainly," replied Albert, "seeing that without my title I
    should be nothing; while you, sacrificing the baron, would
    still remain the millionaire."

    "Which seems to me the finest title under the royalty of
    July," replied Danglars.

    "Unfortunately," said Monte Cristo, "one's title to a
    millionaire does not last for life, like that of baron, peer
    of France, or Academician; for example, the millionaires
    Franck & Poulmann, of Frankfort, who have just become
    bankrupts."

    "Indeed?" said Danglars, becoming pale.

    "Yes; I received the news this evening by a courier. I had
    about a million in their hands, but, warned in time, I
    withdrew it a month ago."

    "Ah, mon Dieu," exclaimed Danglars, "they have drawn on me
    for 200,000 francs!"

    "Well, you can throw out the draft; their signature is worth
    five per cent."

    "Yes, but it is too late," said Danglars, "I have honored
    their bills."

    "Then," said Monte Cristo, "here are 200,000 francs gone
    after" --

    "Hush, do not mention these things," said Danglars; then,
    approaching Monte Cristo, he added, "especially before young
    M. Cavalcanti;" after which he smiled, and turned towards
    the young man in question. Albert had left the count to
    speak to his mother, Danglars to converse with young
    Cavalcanti; Monte Cristo was for an instant alone. Meanwhile
    the heat became excessive. The footmen were hastening
    through the rooms with waiters loaded with ices. Monte
    Cristo wiped the perspiration from his forehead, but drew
    back when the waiter was presented to him; he took no
    refreshment. Madame de Morcerf did not lose sight of Monte
    Cristo; she saw that he took nothing, and even noticed his
    gesture of refusal.

    "Albert," she asked, "did you notice that?"

    "What, mother?"

    "That the count has never been willing to partake of food
    under the roof of M. de Morcerf."

    "Yes; but then he breakfasted with me -- indeed, he made his
    first appearance in the world on that occasion."

    "But your house is not M. de Morcerf's," murmured Mercedes;
    "and since he has been here I have watched him."

    "Well?"

    "Well, he has taken nothing yet."

    "The count is very temperate." Mercedes smiled sadly.
    "Approach him," said she, "and when the next waiter passes,
    insist upon his taking something."

    "But why, mother?"

    "Just to please me, Albert," said Mercedes. Albert kissed
    his mother's hand, and drew near the count. Another salver
    passed, loaded like the preceding ones; she saw Albert
    attempt to persuade the count, but he obstinately refused.
    Albert rejoined his mother; she was very pale.

    "Well," said she, "you see he refuses?"

    "Yes; but why need this annoy you?"

    "You know, Albert, women are singular creatures. I should
    like to have seen the count take something in my house, if
    only an ice. Perhaps he cannot reconcile himself to the
    French style of living, and might prefer something else."

    "Oh, no; I have seen him eat of everything in Italy; no
    doubt he does not feel inclined this evening."

    "And besides," said the countess, "accustomed as he is to
    burning climates, possibly he does not feel the heat as we
    do."

    "I do not think that, for he has complained of feeling
    almost suffocated, and asked why the Venetian blinds were
    not opened as well as the windows."

    "In a word," said Mercedes, "it was a way of assuring me
    that his abstinence was intended." And she left the room. A
    minute afterwards the blinds were thrown open, and through
    the jessamine and clematis that overhung the window one
    could see the garden ornamented with lanterns, and the
    supper laid under the tent. Dancers, players, talkers, all
    uttered an exclamation of joy -- every one inhaled with
    delight the breeze that floated in. At the same time
    Mercedes reappeared, paler than before, but with that
    imperturbable expression of countenance which she sometimes
    wore. She went straight to the group of which her husband
    formed the centre. "Do not detain those gentlemen here,
    count," she said; "they would prefer, I should think, to
    breathe in the garden rather than suffocate here, since they
    are not playing."

    "Ah," said a gallant old general, who, in 1809, had sung
    "Partant pour la Syrie," -- "we will not go alone to the
    garden."

    "Then," said Mercedes, "I will lead the way." Turning
    towards Monte Cristo, she added, "count, will you oblige me
    with your arm?" The count almost staggered at these simple
    words; then he fixed his eyes on Mercedes. It was only a
    momentary glance, but it seemed to the countess to have
    lasted for a century, so much was expressed in that one
    look. He offered his arm to the countess; she took it, or
    rather just touched it with her little hand, and they
    together descended the steps, lined with rhododendrons and
    camellias. Behind them, by another outlet, a group of about
    twenty persons rushed into the garden with loud exclamations
    of delight.
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