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    Chapter 90

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    Chapter 90
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    CHAPTER 90
    The Meeting.

    After Mercedes had left Monte Cristo, he fell into profound
    gloom. Around him and within him the flight of thought
    seemed to have stopped; his energetic mind slumbered, as the
    body does after extreme fatigue. "What?" said he to himself,
    while the lamp and the wax lights were nearly burnt out, and
    the servants were waiting impatiently in the anteroom;
    "what? this edifice which I have been so long preparing,
    which I have reared with so much care and toil, is to be
    crushed by a single touch, a word, a breath! Yes, this self,
    of whom I thought so much, of whom I was so proud, who had
    appeared so worthless in the dungeons of the Chateau d'If,
    and whom I had succeeded in making so great, will be but a
    lump of clay to-morrow. Alas, it is not the death of the
    body I regret; for is not the destruction of the vital
    principle, the repose to which everything is tending, to
    which every unhappy being aspires, -- is not this the repose
    of matter after which I so long sighed, and which I was
    seeking to attain by the painful process of starvation when
    Faria appeared in my dungeon? What is death for me? One step
    farther into rest, -- two, perhaps, into silence.

    "No, it is not existence, then, that I regret, but the ruin
    of projects so slowly carried out, so laboriously framed.
    Providence is now opposed to them, when I most thought it
    would be propitious. It is not God's will that they should
    be accomplished. This burden, almost as heavy as a world,
    which I had raised, and I had thought to bear to the end,
    was too great for my strength, and I was compelled to lay it
    down in the middle of my career. Oh, shall I then, again
    become a fatalist, whom fourteen years of despair and ten of
    hope had rendered a believer in providence? And all this --
    all this, because my heart, which I thought dead, was only
    sleeping; because it has awakened and has begun to beat
    again, because I have yielded to the pain of the emotion
    excited in my breast by a woman's voice. Yet," continued the
    count, becoming each moment more absorbed in the
    anticipation of the dreadful sacrifice for the morrow, which
    Mercedes had accepted, "yet, it is impossible that so
    noble-minded a woman should thus through selfishness consent
    to my death when I am in the prime of life and strength; it
    is impossible that she can carry to such a point maternal
    love, or rather delirium. There are virtues which become
    crimes by exaggeration. No, she must have conceived some
    pathetic scene; she will come and throw herself between us;
    and what would be sublime here will there appear
    ridiculous." The blush of pride mounted to the count's
    forehead as this thought passed through his mind.
    "Ridiculous?" repeated he; "and the ridicule will fall on
    me. I ridiculous? No, I would rather die."

    By thus exaggerating to his own mind the anticipated
    ill-fortune of the next day, to which he had condemned
    himself by promising Mercedes to spare her son, the count at
    last exclaimed, "Folly, folly, folly! -- to carry generosity
    so far as to put myself up as a mark for that young man to
    aim at. He will never believe that my death was suicide; and
    yet it is important for the honor of my memory, -- and this
    surely is not vanity, but a justifiable pride, -- it is
    important the world should know that I have consented, by my
    free will, to stop my arm, already raised to strike, and
    that with the arm which has been so powerful against others
    I have struck myself. It must be; it shall be."

    Seizing a pen, he drew a paper from a secret drawer in his
    desk, and wrote at the bottom of the document (which was no
    other than his will, made since his arrival in Paris) a sort
    of codicil, clearly explaining the nature of his death. "I
    do this, O my God," said he, with his eyes raised to heaven,
    "as much for thy honor as for mine. I have during ten years
    considered myself the agent of thy vengeance, and other
    wretches, like Morcerf, Danglars, Villefort, even Morcerf
    himself, must not imagine that chance has freed them from
    their enemy. Let them know, on the contrary, that their
    punishment, which had been decreed by providence, is only
    delayed by my present determination, and although they
    escape it in this world, it awaits them in another, and that
    they are only exchanging time for eternity."

    While he was thus agitated by gloomy uncertainties, --
    wretched waking dreams of grief, -- the first rays of
    morning pierced his windows, and shone upon the pale blue
    paper on which he had just inscribed his justification of
    providence. It was just five o'clock in the morning when a
    slight noise like a stifled sigh reached his ear. He turned
    his head, looked around him, and saw no one; but the sound
    was repeated distinctly enough to convince him of its
    reality.

    He arose, and quietly opening the door of the drawing-room,
    saw Haidee, who had fallen on a chair, with her arms hanging
    down and her beautiful head thrown back. She had been
    standing at the door, to prevent his going out without
    seeing her, until sleep, which the young cannot resist, had
    overpowered her frame, wearied as she was with watching. The
    noise of the door did not awaken her, and Monte Cristo gazed
    at her with affectionate regret. "She remembered that she
    had a son," said he; "and I forgot I had a daughter." Then,
    shaking his head sorrowfully, "Poor Haidee," said he; "she
    wished to see me, to speak to me; she has feared or guessed
    something. Oh, I cannot go without taking leave of her; I
    cannot die without confiding her to some one." He quietly
    regained his seat, and wrote under the other lines: --

    "I bequeath to Maximilian Morrel, captain of Spahis, -- and
    son of my former patron, Pierre Morrel, shipowner at
    Marseilles, -- the sum of twenty millions, a part of which
    may be offered to his sister Julia and brother-in-law
    Emmanuel, if he does not fear this increase of fortune may
    mar their happiness. These twenty millions are concealed in
    my grotto at Monte Cristo, of which Bertuccio knows the
    secret. If his heart is free, and he will marry Haidee, the
    daughter of Ali Pasha of Yanina, whom I have brought up with
    the love of a father, and who has shown the love and
    tenderness of a daughter for me, he will thus accomplish my
    last wish. This will has already constituted Haidee heiress
    of the rest of my fortune, consisting of lands, funds in
    England, Austria, and Holland, furniture in my different
    palaces and houses, and which without the twenty millions
    and the legacies to my servants, may still amount to sixty
    millions."

    He was finishing the last line when a cry behind him made
    him start, and the pen fell from his hand. "Haidee," said
    he. "did you read it?"

    "Oh, my lord," said she, "why are you writing thus at such
    an hour? Why are you bequeathing all your fortune to me? Are
    you going to leave me?"

    "I am going on a journey, dear child," said Monte Cristo,
    with an expression of infinite tenderness and melancholy;
    "and if any misfortune should happen to me"

    The count stopped. "Well?" asked the young girl, with an
    authoritative tone the count had never observed before, and
    which startled him. "Well, if any misfortune happen to me,"
    replied Monte Cristo, "I wish my daughter to be happy."
    Haidee smiled sorrowfully, and shook her head. "Do you think
    of dying, my lord?" said she.

    "The wise man, my child, has said, 'It is good to think of
    death.'"

    "Well, if you die," said she, "bequeath your fortune to
    others, for if you die I shall require nothing;" and, taking
    the paper, she tore it in four pieces, and threw it into the
    middle of the room. Then, the effort having exhausted her
    strength, she fell not asleep this time, but fainting on the
    floor. The count leaned over her and raised her in his arms;
    and seeing that sweet pale face, those lovely eyes closed,
    that beautiful form motionless and to all appearance
    lifeless, the idea occurred to him for the first time, that
    perhaps she loved him otherwise than as a daughter loves a
    father.

    "Alas," murmured he, with intense suffering, "I might, then,
    have been happy yet." Then he carried Haidee to her room,
    resigned her to the care of her attendants, and returning to
    his study, which he shut quickly this time, he again copied
    the destroyed will. As he was finishing, the sound of a
    cabriolet entering the yard was heard. Monte Cristo
    approached the window, and saw Maximilian and Emmanuel
    alight. "Good," said he; "it was time," -- and he sealed his
    will with three seals. A moment afterwards he heard a noise
    in the drawing-room, and went to open the door himself.
    Morrel was there; he had come twenty minutes before the time
    appointed. "I am perhaps come too soon, count," said he,
    "but I frankly acknowledge that I have not closed my eyes
    all night, nor has any one in my house. I need to see you
    strong in your courageous assurance, to recover myself."
    Monte Cristo could not resist this proof of affection; he
    not only extended his hand to the young man, but flew to him
    with open arms. "Morrel," said he, "it is a happy day for
    me, to feel that I am beloved by such a man as you.
    Good-morning, Emmanuel; you will come with me then,
    Maximilian?"

    "Did you doubt it?" said the young captain.

    "But if I were wrong" --

    "I watched you during the whole scene of that challenge
    yesterday; I have been thinking of your firmness all night,
    and I said to myself that justice must be on your side, or
    man's countenance is no longer to be relied on."

    "But, Morrel, Albert is your friend?"

    "Simply an acquaintance, sir."

    "You met on the same day you first saw me?"

    "Yes, that is true; but I should not have recollected it if
    you had not reminded me."

    "Thank you, Morrel." Then ringing the bell once, "Look."
    said he to Ali, who came immediately, "take that to my
    solicitor. It is my will, Morrel. When I am dead, you will
    go and examine it."

    "What?" said Morrel, "you dead?"

    "Yes; must I not be prepared for everything, dear friend?
    But what did you do yesterday after you left me?"

    "I went to Tortoni's, where, as I expected, I found
    Beauchamp and Chateau-Renaud. I own I was seeking them."

    "Why, when all was arranged?"

    "Listen, count; the affair is serious and unavoidable."

    "Did you doubt it!"

    "No; the offence was public, and every one is already
    talking of it."

    "Well?"

    "Well, I hoped to get an exchange of arms, -- to substitute
    the sword for the pistol; the pistol is blind."

    "Have you succeeded?" asked Monte Cristo quickly, with an
    imperceptible gleam of hope.

    "No; for your skill with the sword is so well known."

    "Ah? -- who has betrayed me?"

    "The skilful swordsman whom you have conquered."

    "And you failed?"

    "They positively refused."

    "Morrel," said the count, "have you ever seen me fire a
    pistol?"

    "Never."

    "Well, we have time; look." Monte Cristo took the pistols he
    held in his hand when Mercedes entered, and fixing an ace of
    clubs against the iron plate, with four shots he
    successively shot off the four sides of the club. At each
    shot Morrel turned pale. He examined the bullets with which
    Monte Cristo performed this dexterous feat, and saw that
    they were no larger than buckshot. "It is astonishing," said
    he. "Look, Emmanuel." Then turning towards Monte Cristo,
    "Count," said he, "in the name of all that is dear to you, I
    entreat you not to kill Albert! -- the unhappy youth has a
    mother."

    "You are right," said Monte Cristo; "and I have none." These
    words were uttered in a tone which made Morrel shudder. "You
    are the offended party, count."

    "Doubtless; what does that imply?"

    "That you will fire first."

    "I fire first?"

    "Oh, I obtained, or rather claimed that; we had conceded
    enough for them to yield us that."

    "And at what distance?"

    "Twenty paces." A smile of terrible import passed over the
    count's lips. "Morrel," said he, "do not forget what you
    have just seen."

    "The only chance for Albert's safety, then, will arise from
    your emotion."

    "I suffer from emotion?" said Monte Cristo.

    "Or from your generosity, my friend; to so good a marksman
    as you are, I may say what would appear absurd to another."

    "What is that?"

    "Break his arm -- wound him -- but do not kill him."

    "I will tell you, Morrel," said the count, "that I do not
    need entreating to spare the life of M. de Morcerf; he shall
    be so well spared, that he will return quietly with his two
    friends, while I" --

    "And you?"

    "That will be another thing; I shall be brought home."

    "No, no," cried Maximilian, quite unable to restrain his
    feelings.

    "As I told you, my dear Morrel, M. de Morcerf will kill me."
    Morrel looked at him in utter amazement. "But what has
    happened, then, since last evening, count?"

    "The same thing that happened to Brutus the night before the
    battle of Philippi; I have seen a ghost."

    "And that ghost" --

    "Told me, Morrel, that I had lived long enough." Maximilian
    and Emmanuel looked at each other. Monte Cristo drew out his
    watch. "Let us go," said he; "it is five minutes past seven,
    and the appointment was for eight o'clock." A carriage was
    in readiness at the door. Monte Cristo stepped into it with
    his two friends. He had stopped a moment in the passage to
    listen at a door, and Maximilian and Emmanuel, who had
    considerately passed forward a few steps, thought they heard
    him answer by a sigh to a sob from within. As the clock
    struck eight they drove up to the place of meeting. "We are
    first," said Morrel, looking out of the window. "Excuse me,
    sir," said Baptistin, who had followed his master with
    indescribable terror, "but I think I see a carriage down
    there under the trees."

    Monte Cristo sprang lightly from the carriage, and offered
    his hand to assist Emmanuel and Maximilian. The latter
    retained the count's hand between his. "I like," said he,
    "to feel a hand like this, when its owner relies on the
    goodness of his cause."

    "It seems to me," said Emmanuel, "that I see two young men
    down there, who are evidently, waiting." Monte Cristo drew
    Morrel a step or two behind his brother-in-law.
    "Maximilian," said he, "are your affections disengaged?"
    Morrel looked at Monte Cristo with astonishment. "I do not
    seek your confidence, my dear friend. I only ask you a
    simple question; answer it; -- that is all I require."

    "I love a young girl, count."

    "Do you love her much?"

    "More than my life."

    "Another hope defeated!" said the count. Then, with a sigh,
    "Poor Haidee!" murmured he.

    "To tell the truth, count, if I knew less of you, I should
    think that you were less brave than you are."

    "Because I sigh when thinking of some one I am leaving?
    Come, Morrel, it is not like a soldier to be so bad a judge
    of courage. Do I regret life? What is it to me, who have
    passed twenty years between life and death? Moreover, do not
    alarm yourself, Morrel; this weakness, if it is such, is
    betrayed to you alone. I know the world is a drawing-room,
    from which we must retire politely and honestly; that is,
    with a bow, and our debts of honor paid."

    "That is to the purpose. Have you brought your arms?"

    "I? -- what for? I hope these gentlemen have theirs."

    "I will inquire," said Morrel.

    "Do; but make no treaty -- you understand me?"

    "You need not fear." Morrel advanced towards Beauchamp and
    Chateau-Renaud, who, seeing his intention, came to meet him.
    The three young men bowed to each other courteously, if not
    affably.

    "Excuse me, gentlemen," said Morrel, "but I do not see M. de
    Morcerf."

    "He sent us word this morning," replied Chateau-Renaud,
    "that he would meet us on the ground."

    "Ah," said Morrel. Beauchamp pulled out his watch. "It is
    only five minutes past eight," said he to Morrel; "there is
    not much time lost yet."

    "Oh, I made no allusion of that kind," replied Morrel.

    "There is a carriage coming," said Chateau-Renaud. It
    advanced rapidly along one of the avenues leading towards
    the open space where they were assembled. "You are doubtless
    provided with pistols, gentlemen? M. de Monte Cristo yields
    his right of using his."

    "We had anticipated this kindness on the part of the count,"
    said Beauchamp, "and I have brought some weapons which I
    bought eight or ten days since, thinking to want them on a
    similar occasion. They are quite new, and have not yet been
    used. Will you examine them."

    "Oh, M. Beauchamp, if you assure me that M. de Morcerf does
    not know these pistols, you may readily believe that your
    word will be quite sufficient."

    "Gentlemen," said Chateau-Renaud, "it is not Morcerf coming
    in that carriage; -- faith, it is Franz and Debray!" The two
    young men he announced were indeed approaching. "What chance
    brings you here, gentlemen?" said Chateau-Renaud, shaking
    hands with each of them. "Because," said Debray, "Albert
    sent this morning to request us to come." Beauchamp and
    Chateau-Renaud exchanged looks of astonishment. "I think I
    understand his reason," said Morrel.

    "What is it?"

    "Yesterday afternoon I received a letter from M. de Morcerf,
    begging me to attend the opera."

    "And I," said Debray.

    "And I also," said Franz.

    "And we, too," added Beauchamp and Chateau-Renaud.

    "Having wished you all to witness the challenge, he now
    wishes you to be present at the combat."

    "Exactly so," said the young men; "you have probably guessed
    right."

    "But, after all these arrangements, he does not come
    himself," said Chateau-Renaud. "Albert is ten minutes after
    time."

    "There he comes," said Beauchamp, "on horseback, at full
    gallop, followed by a servant."

    "How imprudent," said Chateau-Renaud, "to come on horseback
    to fight a duel with pistols, after all the instructions I
    had given him."

    "And besides," said Beauchamp, "with a collar above his
    cravat, an open coat and white waistcoat! Why has he not
    painted a spot upon his heart? -- it would have been more
    simple." Meanwhile Albert had arrived within ten paces of
    the group formed by the five young men. He jumped from his
    horse, threw the bridle on his servant's arms, and joined
    them. He was pale, and his eyes were red and swollen; it was
    evident that he had not slept. A shade of melancholy gravity
    overspread his countenance, which was not natural to him. "I
    thank you, gentlemen," said he, "for having complied with my
    request; I feel extremely grateful for this mark of
    friendship." Morrel had stepped back as Morcerf approached,
    and remained at a short distance. "And to you also, M.
    Morrel, my thanks are due. Come, there cannot be too many."

    "Sir," said Maximilian, "you are not perhaps aware that I am
    M. de Monte Cristo's friend?"

    "I was not sure, but I thought it might be so. So much the
    better; the more honorable men there are here the better I
    shall be satisfied."

    "M. Morrel," said Chateau-Renaud, "will you apprise the
    Count of Monte Cristo that M. de Morcerf is arrived, and we
    are at his disposal?" Morrel was preparing to fulfil his
    commission. Beauchamp had meanwhile drawn the box of pistols
    from the carriage. "Stop, gentlemen," said Albert; "I have
    two words to say to the Count of Monte Cristo."

    "In private?" asked Morrel.

    "No, sir; before all who are here."

    Albert's witnesses looked at each other. Franz and Debray
    exchanged some words in a whisper, and Morrel, rejoiced at
    this unexpected incident, went to fetch the count, who was
    walking in a retired path with Emmanuel. "What does he want
    with me?" said Monte Cristo.

    "I do not know, but he wishes to speak to you."

    "Ah?" said Monte Cristo, "I trust he is not going to tempt
    me by some fresh insult!"

    "I do not think that such is his intention," said Morrel.

    The count advanced, accompanied by Maximilian and Emmanuel.
    His calm and serene look formed a singular contrast to
    Albert's grief-stricken face, who approached also, followed
    by the other four young men. When at three paces distant
    from each other, Albert and the count stopped.

    "Approach, gentlemen," said Albert; "I wish you not to lose
    one word of what I am about to have the honor of saying to
    the Count of Monte Cristo, for it must be repeated by you to
    all who will listen to it, strange as it may appear to you."

    "Proceed, sir," said the count.

    "Sir," said Albert, at first with a tremulous voice, but
    which gradually because firmer, "I reproached you with
    exposing the conduct of M. de Morcerf in Epirus, for guilty
    as I knew he was, I thought you had no right to punish him;
    but I have since learned that you had that right. It is not
    Fernand Mondego's treachery towards Ali Pasha which induces
    me so readily to excuse you, but the treachery of the
    fisherman Fernand towards you, and the almost unheard-of
    miseries which were its consequences; and I say, and
    proclaim it publicly, that you were justified in revenging
    yourself on my father, and I, his son, thank you for not
    using greater severity."

    Had a thunderbolt fallen in the midst of the spectators of
    this unexpected scene, it would not have surprised them more
    than did Albert's declaration. As for Monte Cristo, his eyes
    slowly rose towards heaven with an expression of infinite
    gratitude. He could not understand how Albert's fiery
    nature, of which he had seen so much among the Roman
    bandits, had suddenly stooped to this humiliation. He
    recognized the influence of Mercedes, and saw why her noble
    heart had not opposed the sacrifice she knew beforehand
    would be useless. "Now, sir," said Albert, "if you think my
    apology sufficient, pray give me your hand. Next to the
    merit of infallibility which you appear to possess, I rank
    that of candidly acknowledging a fault. But this confession
    concerns me only. I acted well as a man, but you have acted
    better than man. An angel alone could have saved one of us
    from death -- that angel came from heaven, if not to make us
    friends (which, alas, fatality renders impossible), at least
    to make us esteem each other."

    Monte Cristo, with moistened eye, heaving breast, and lips
    half open, extended to Albert a hand which the latter
    pressed with a sentiment resembling respectful fear.
    "Gentlemen," said he, "M. de Monte Cristo receives my
    apology. I had acted hastily towards him. Hasty actions are
    generally bad ones. Now my fault is repaired. I hope the
    world will not call me cowardly for acting as my conscience
    dictated. But if any one should entertain a false opinion of
    me," added he, drawing himself up as if he would challenge
    both friends and enemies, "I shall endeavor to correct his
    mistake."

    "What happened during the night?" asked Beauchamp of
    Chateau-Renaud; "we appear to make a very sorry figure
    here."

    "In truth, what Albert has just done is either very
    despicable or very noble," replied the baron.

    "What can it mean?" said Debray to Franz. "The Count of
    Monte Cristo acts dishonorably to M. de Morcerf, and is
    justified by his son! Had I ten Yaninas in my family, I
    should only consider myself the more bound to fight ten
    times." As for Monte Cristo, his head was bent down, his
    arms were powerless. Bowing under the weight of twenty-four
    years' reminiscences, he thought not of Albert, of
    Beauchamp, of Chateau-Renaud, or of any of that group; but
    he thought of that courageous woman who had come to plead
    for her son's life, to whom he had offered his, and who had
    now saved it by the revelation of a dreadful family secret,
    capable of destroying forever in that young man's heart
    every feeling of filial piety.

    "Providence still," murmured he; "now only am I fully
    convinced of being the emissary of God!"
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