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    Chapter 88

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    Chapter 88
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    CHAPTER 88
    The Insult.

    At the banker's door Beauchamp stopped Morcerf. "Listen,"
    said he; "just now I told you it was of M. de Monte Cristo
    you must demand an explanation."

    "Yes; and we are going to his house."

    "Reflect, Morcerf, one moment before you go."

    "On what shall I reflect?"

    "On the importance of the step you are taking."

    "Is it more serious than going to M. Danglars?"

    "Yes; M. Danglars is a money-lover, and those who love
    money, you know, think too much of what they risk to be
    easily induced to fight a duel. The other is, on the
    contrary, to all appearance a true nobleman; but do you not
    fear to find him a bully?"

    "I only fear one thing; namely, to find a man who will not
    fight."

    "Do not be alarmed," said Beauchamp; "he will meet you. My
    only fear is that he will be too strong for you."

    "My friend," said Morcerf, with a sweet smile, "that is what
    I wish. The happiest thing that could occur to me, would be
    to die in my father's stead; that would save us all."

    "Your mother would die of grief."

    "My poor mother!" said Albert, passing his hand across his
    eyes, "I know she would; but better so than die of shame."

    "Are you quite decided, Albert?"

    "Yes; let us go."

    "But do you think we shall find the count at home?"

    "He intended returning some hours after me, and doubtless he
    is now at home." They ordered the driver to take them to No.
    30 Champs-Elysees. Beauchamp wished to go in alone, but
    Albert observed that as this was an unusual circumstance he
    might be allowed to deviate from the usual etiquette in
    affairs of honor. The cause which the young man espoused was
    one so sacred that Beauchamp had only to comply with all his
    wishes; he yielded and contented himself with following
    Morcerf. Albert sprang from the porter's lodge to the steps.
    He was received by Baptistin. The count had, indeed, just
    arrived, but he was in his bath, and had forbidden that any
    one should be admitted. "But after his bath?" asked Morcerf.

    "My master will go to dinner."

    "And after dinner?"

    "He will sleep an hour."

    "Then?"

    "He is going to the opera."

    "Are you sure of it?" asked Albert.

    "Quite, sir; my master has ordered his horses at eight
    o'clock precisely."

    "Very good," replied Albert; "that is all I wished to know."
    Then, turning towards Beauchamp, "If you have anything to
    attend to, Beauchamp, do it directly; if you have any
    appointment for this evening, defer it till tomorrow. I
    depend on you to accompany me to the opera; and if you can,
    bring Chateau-Renaud with you."

    Beauchamp availed himself of Albert's permission, and left
    him, promising to call for him at a quarter before eight. On
    his return home, Albert expressed his wish to Franz Debray,
    and Morrel, to see them at the opera that evening. Then he
    went to see his mother, who since the events of the day
    before had refused to see any one, and had kept her room. He
    found her in bed, overwhelmed with grief at this public
    humiliation. The sight of Albert produced the effect which
    might naturally be expected on Mercedes; she pressed her
    son's hand and sobbed aloud, but her tears relieved her.
    Albert stood one moment speechless by the side of his
    mother's bed. It was evident from his pale face and knit
    brows that his resolution to revenge himself was growing
    weaker. "My dear mother," said he, "do you know if M. de
    Morcerf has any enemy?" Mercedes started; she noticed that
    the young man did not say "my father." "My son," she said,
    "persons in the count's situation have many secret enemies.
    Those who are known are not the most dangerous."

    "I know it, and appeal to your penetration. You are of so
    superior a mind, nothing escapes you."

    "Why do you say so?"

    "Because, for instance, you noticed on the evening of the
    ball we gave, that M. de Monte Cristo would eat nothing in
    our house." Mercedes raised herself on her feverish arm. "M.
    de Monte Cristo!" she exclaimed; "and how is he connected
    with the question you asked me?"

    "You know, mother, M. de Monte Cristo is almost an Oriental,
    and it is customary with the Orientals to secure full
    liberty for revenge by not eating or drinking in the houses
    of their enemies."

    "Do you say M. de Monte Cristo is our enemy?" replied
    Mercedes, becoming paler than the sheet which covered her.
    "Who told you so? Why, you are mad, Albert! M. de Monte
    Cristo has only shown us kindness. M. de Monte Cristo saved
    your life; you yourself presented him to us. Oh, I entreat
    you, my son, if you had entertained such an idea, dispel it;
    and my counsel to you -- nay, my prayer -- is to retain his
    friendship."

    "Mother," replied the young man, "you have especial reasons
    for telling me to conciliate that man."

    "I?" said Mercedes, blushing as rapidly as she had turned
    pale, and again becoming paler than ever.

    "Yes, doubtless; and is it not that he may never do us any
    harm?" Mercedes shuddered, and, fixing on her son a
    scrutinizing gaze, "You speak strangely," said she to
    Albert, "and you appear to have some singular prejudices.
    What has the count done? Three days since you were with him
    in Normandy; only three days since we looked on him as our
    best friend."

    An ironical smile passed over Albert's lips. Mercedes saw it
    and with the double instinct of woman and mother guessed
    all; but as she was prudent and strong-minded she concealed
    both her sorrows and her fears. Albert was silent; an
    instant after, the countess resumed: "You came to inquire
    after my health; I will candidly acknowledge that I am not
    well. You should install yourself here, and cheer my
    solitude. I do not wish to be left alone."

    "Mother," said the young man, "you know how gladly I would
    obey your wish, but an urgent and important affair obliges
    me to leave you for the whole evening."

    "Well," replied Mercedes, sighing, "go, Albert; I will not
    make you a slave to your filial piety." Albert pretended he
    did not hear, bowed to his mother, and quitted her. Scarcely
    had he shut her door, when Mercedes called a confidential
    servant, and ordered him to follow Albert wherever he should
    go that evening, and to come and tell her immediately what
    he observed. Then she rang for her lady's maid, and, weak as
    she was, she dressed, in order to be ready for whatever
    might happen. The footman's mission was an easy one. Albert
    went to his room, and dressed with unusual care. At ten
    minutes to eight Beauchamp arrived; he had seen
    Chateau-Renaud, who had promised to be in the orchestra
    before the curtain was raised. Both got into Albert's coupe;
    and, as the young man had no reason to conceal where he was
    going, he called aloud, "To the opera." In his impatience he
    arrived before the beginning of the performance.

    Chateau-Renaud was at his post; apprised by Beauchamp of the
    circumstances, he required no explanation from Albert. The
    conduct of the son in seeking to avenge his father was so
    natural that Chateau-Renaud did not seek to dissuade him,
    and was content with renewing his assurances of devotion.
    Debray was not yet come, but Albert knew that he seldom lost
    a scene at the opera. Albert wandered about the theatre
    until the curtain was drawn up. He hoped to meet with M. de
    Monte Cristo either in the lobby or on the stairs. The bell
    summoned him to his seat, and he entered the orchestra with
    Chateau-Renaud and Beauchamp. But his eyes scarcely quitted
    the box between the columns, which remained obstinately
    closed during the whole of the first act. At last, as Albert
    was looking at his watch for about the hundredth time, at
    the beginning of the second act the door opened, and Monte
    Cristo entered, dressed in black, and, leaning over the
    front of the box, looked around the pit. Morrel followed
    him, and looked also for his sister and brother in-law; he
    soon discovered them in another box, and kissed his hand to
    them.

    The count, in his survey of the pit, encountered a pale face
    and threatening eyes, which evidently sought to gain his
    attention. He recognized Albert, but thought it better not
    to notice him, as he looked so angry and discomposed.
    Without communicating his thoughts to his companion, he sat
    down, drew out his opera-glass, and looked another way.
    Although apparently not noticing Albert, he did not,
    however, lose sight of him, and when the curtain fell at the
    end of the second act, he saw him leave the orchestra with
    his two friends. Then his head was seen passing at the back
    of the boxes, and the count knew that the approaching storm
    was intended to fall on him. He was at the moment conversing
    cheerfully with Morrel, but he was well prepared for what
    might happen. The door opened, and Monte Cristo, turning
    round, saw Albert, pale and trembling, followed by Beauchamp
    and Chateau-Renaud.

    "Well," cried he, with that benevolent politeness which
    distinguished his salutation from the common civilities of
    the world, "my cavalier has attained his object.
    Good-evening, M. de Morcerf." The countenance of this man,
    who possessed such extraordinary control over his feelings,
    expressed the most perfect cordiality. Morrel only then
    recollected the letter he had received from the viscount, in
    which, without assigning any reason, he begged him to go to
    the opera, but he understood that something terrible was
    brooding.

    "We are not come here, sir, to exchange hypocritical
    expressions of politeness, or false professions of
    friendship," said Albert, "but to demand an explanation."
    The young man's trembling voice was scarcely audible. "An
    explanation at the opera?" said the count, with that calm
    tone and penetrating eye which characterize the man who
    knows his cause is good. "Little acquainted as I am with the
    habits of Parisians, I should not have thought this the
    place for such a demand."

    "Still, if people will shut themselves up," said Albert,
    "and cannot be seen because they are bathing, dining, or
    asleep, we must avail ourselves of the opportunity whenever
    they are to be seen."

    "I am not difficult of access, sir; for yesterday, if my
    memory does not deceive me, you were at my house."

    "Yesterday I was at your house, sir," said the young man;
    "because then I knew not who you were." In pronouncing these
    words Albert had raised his voice so as to be heard by those
    in the adjoining boxes and in the lobby. Thus the attention
    of many was attracted by this altercation. "Where are you
    come from, sir? You do not appear to be in the possession of
    your senses."

    "Provided I understand your perfidy, sir, and succeed in
    making you understand that I will be revenged, I shall be
    reasonable enough," said Albert furiously.

    "I do not understand you, sir," replied Monte Cristo; "and
    if I did, your tone is too high. I am at home here, and I
    alone have a right to raise my voice above another's. Leave
    the box, sir!" Monte Cristo pointed towards the door with
    the most commanding dignity. "Ah, I shall know how to make
    you leave your home!" replied Albert, clasping in his
    convulsed grasp the glove, which Monte Cristo did not lose
    sight of.

    "Well, well," said Monte Cristo quietly, "I see you wish to
    quarrel with me; but I would give you one piece of advice,
    which you will do well to keep in mind. It is in poor taste
    to make a display of a challenge. Display is not becoming to
    every one, M. de Morcerf."

    At this name a murmur of astonishment passed around the
    group of spectators of this scene. They had talked of no one
    but Morcerf the whole day. Albert understood the allusion in
    a moment, and was about to throw his glove at the count,
    when Morrel seized his hand, while Beauchamp and
    Chateau-Renaud, fearing the scene would surpass the limits
    of a challenge, held him back. But Monte Cristo, without
    rising, and leaning forward in his chair, merely stretched
    out his arm and, taking the damp, crushed glove from the
    clinched hand of the young man, "Sir," said he in a solemn
    tone, "I consider your glove thrown, and will return it to
    you wrapped around a bullet. Now leave me or I will summon
    my servants to throw you out at the door."

    Wild, almost unconscious, and with eyes inflamed, Albert
    stepped back, and Morrel closed the door. Monte Cristo took
    up his glass again as if nothing had happened; his face was
    like marble, and his heart was like bronze. Morrel
    whispered, "What have you done to him?"

    "I? Nothing -- at least personally," said Monte Cristo.

    "But there must be some cause for this strange scene."

    "The Count of Morcerf's adventure exasperates the young
    man."

    "Have you anything to do with it?"

    "It was through Haidee that the Chamber was informed of his
    father's treason."

    "Indeed?" said Morrel. "I had been told, but would not
    credit it, that the Grecian slave I have seen with you here
    in this very box was the daughter of Ali Pasha."

    "It is true, nevertheless."

    "Then," said Morrel, "I understand it all, and this scene
    was premeditated."

    "How so?"

    "Yes. Albert wrote to request me to come to the opera,
    doubtless that I might be a witness to the insult he meant
    to offer you."

    "Probably," said Monte Cristo with his imperturbable
    tranquillity.

    "But what shall you do with him?"

    "With whom?"

    "With Albert."

    "What shall I do with Albert? As certainly, Maximilian, as I
    now press your hand, I shall kill him before ten o'clock
    to-morrow morning." Morrel, in his turn, took Monte Cristo's
    hand in both of his, and he shuddered to feel how cold and
    steady it was.

    "Ah, Count," said he, "his father loves him so much!"

    "Do not speak to me of that," said Monte Cristo, with the
    first movement of anger he had betrayed; "I will make him
    suffer." Morrel, amazed, let fall Monte Cristo's hand.
    "Count, count!" said he.

    "Dear Maximilian," interrupted the count, "listen how
    adorably Duprez is singing that line, --

    'O Mathilde! idole de mon ame!'

    "I was the first to discover Duprez at Naples, and the first
    to applaud him. Bravo, bravo!" Morrel saw it was useless to
    say more, and refrained. The curtain, which had risen at the
    close of the scene with Albert, again fell, and a rap was
    heard at the door.

    "Come in," said Monte Cristo with a voice that betrayed not
    the least emotion; and immediately Beauchamp appeared.
    "Good-evening, M. Beauchamp," said Monte Cristo, as if this
    was the first time he had seen the journalist that evening;
    "be seated."

    Beauchamp bowed, and, sitting down, "Sir," said he, "I just
    now accompanied M. de Morcerf, as you saw."

    "And that means," replied Monte Cristo, laughing, "that you
    had, probably, just dined together. I am happy to see, M.
    Beauchamp, that you are more sober than he was."

    "Sir," said M. Beauchamp, "Albert was wrong, I acknowledge,
    to betray so much anger, and I come, on my own account, to
    apologize for him. And having done so, entirely on my own
    account, be it understood, I would add that I believe you
    too gentlemanly to refuse giving him some explanation
    concerning your connection with Yanina. Then I will add two
    words about the young Greek girl." Monte Cristo motioned him
    to be silent. "Come," said he, laughing, "there are all my
    hopes about to be destroyed."

    "How so?" asked Beauchamp.

    "Doubtless you wish to make me appear a very eccentric
    character. I am, in your opinion, a Lara, a Manfred, a Lord
    Ruthven; then, just as I am arriving at the climax, you
    defeat your own end, and seek to make an ordinary man of me.
    You bring me down to your own level, and demand
    explanations! Indeed, M. Beauchamp, it is quite laughable."

    "Yet," replied Beauchamp haughtily, "there are occasions
    when probity commands" --

    "M. Beauchamp," interposed this strange man, "the Count of
    Monte Cristo bows to none but the Count of Monte Cristo
    himself. Say no more, I entreat you. I do what I please, M.
    Beauchamp, and it is always well done."

    "Sir," replied the young man, "honest men are not to be paid
    with such coin. I require honorable guaranties."

    "I am, sir, a living guaranty," replied Monte Cristo,
    motionless, but with a threatening look; "we have both blood
    in our veins which we wish to shed -- that is our mutual
    guaranty. Tell the viscount so, and that to-morrow, before
    ten o'clock, I shall see what color his is."

    "Then I have only to make arrangements for the duel," said
    Beauchamp.

    "It is quite immaterial to me," said Monte Cristo, "and it
    was very unnecessary to disturb me at the opera for such a
    trifle. In France people fight with the sword or pistol, in
    the colonies with the carbine, in Arabia with the dagger.
    Tell your client that, although I am the insulted party, in
    order to carry out my eccentricity, I leave him the choice
    of arms, and will accept without discussion, without
    dispute, anything, even combat by drawing lots, which is
    always stupid, but with me different from other people, as I
    am sure to gain."

    "Sure to gain!" repeated Beauchamp, looking with amazement
    at the count.

    "Certainly," said Monte Cristo, slightly shrugging his
    shoulders; "otherwise I would not fight with M. de Morcerf.
    I shall kill him -- I cannot help it. Only by a single line
    this evening at my house let me know the arms and the hour;
    I do not like to be kept waiting."

    "Pistols, then, at eight o'clock, in the Bois de Vincennes,"
    said Beauchamp, quite disconcerted, not knowing if he was
    dealing with an arrogant braggadocio or a supernatural
    being.

    "Very well, sir," said Monte Cristo. "Now all that is
    settled, do let me see the performance, and tell your friend
    Albert not to come any more this evening; he will hurt
    himself with all his ill-chosen barbarisms: let him go home
    and go to sleep." Beauchamp left the box, perfectly amazed.
    "Now," said Monte Cristo, turning towards Morrel, "I may
    depend upon you, may I not?"

    "Certainly," said Morrel, "I am at your service, count;
    still" --

    "What?"

    "It is desirable I should know the real cause."

    "That is to say, you would rather not?"

    "No."

    "The young man himself is acting blindfolded, and knows not
    the true cause, which is known only to God and to me; but I
    give you my word, Morrel, that God, who does know it, will
    be on our side."

    "Enough," said Morrel; "who is your second witness?"

    "I know no one in Paris, Morrel, on whom I could confer that
    honor besides you and your brother Emmanuel. Do you think
    Emmanuel would oblige me?"

    "I will answer for him, count."

    "Well? that is all I require. To-morrow morning, at seven
    o'clock, you will be with me, will you not?"

    "We will."

    "Hush, the curtain is rising. Listen! I never lose a note of
    this opera if I can avoid it; the music of William Tell is
    so sweet."
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