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    Chapter 91

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    Chapter 91
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    CHAPTER 91
    Mother and Son.

    The Count of Monte Cristo bowed to the five young men with a
    melancholy and dignified smile, and got into his carriage
    with Maximilian and Emmanuel. Albert, Beauchamp, and
    Chateau-Renaud remained alone. Albert looked at his two
    friends, not timidly, but in a way that appeared to ask
    their opinion of what he had just done.

    "Indeed, my dear friend," said Beauchamp first, who had
    either the most feeling or the least dissimulation, "allow
    me to congratulate you; this is a very unhoped-for
    conclusion of a very disagreeable affair."

    Albert remained silent and wrapped in thought.
    Chateau-Renaud contented himself with tapping his boot with
    his flexible cane. "Are we not going?" said he, after this
    embarrassing silence. "When you please," replied Beauchamp;
    "allow me only to compliment M. de Morcerf, who has given
    proof to-day of rare chivalric generosity."

    "Oh, yes," said Chateau-Renaud.

    "It is magnificent," continued Beauchamp, "to be able to
    exercise so much self-control!"

    "Assuredly; as for me, I should have been incapable of it,"
    said Chateau-Renaud, with most significant coolness.

    "Gentlemen," interrupted Albert, "I think you did not
    understand that something very serious had passed between M.
    de Monte Cristo and myself."

    "Possibly, possibly," said Beauchamp immediately; "but every
    simpleton would not be able to understand your heroism, and
    sooner or later you will find yourself compelled to explain
    it to them more energetically than would be convenient to
    your bodily health and the duration of your life. May I give
    you a friendly counsel? Set out for Naples, the Hague, or
    St. Petersburg -- calm countries, where the point of honor
    is better understood than among our hot-headed Parisians.
    Seek quietude and oblivion, so that you may return peaceably
    to France after a few years. Am I not right, M. de
    Chateau-Renaud?"

    "That is quite my opinion," said the gentleman; "nothing
    induces serious duels so much as a duel forsworn."

    "Thank you, gentlemen," replied Albert, with a smile of
    indifference; "I shall follow your advice -- not because you
    give it, but because I had before intended to quit France. I
    thank you equally for the service you have rendered me in
    being my seconds. It is deeply engraved on my heart, and,
    after what you have just said, I remember that only."
    Chateau-Renaud and Beauchamp looked at each other; the
    impression was the same on both of them, and the tone in
    which Morcerf had just expressed his thanks was so
    determined that the position would have become embarrassing
    for all if the conversation had continued.

    "Good-by, Albert," said Beauchamp suddenly, carelessly
    extending his hand to the young man. The latter did not
    appear to arouse from his lethargy; in fact, he did not
    notice the offered hand. "Good-by," said Chateau-Renaud in
    his turn, keeping his little cane in his left hand, and
    saluting with his right. Albert's lips scarcely whispered
    "Good-by," but his look was more explicit; it expressed a
    whole poem of restrained anger, proud disdain, and generous
    indignation. He preserved his melancholy and motionless
    position for some time after his two friends had regained
    their carriage; then suddenly unfastening his horse from the
    little tree to which his servant had tied it, he mounted and
    galloped off in the direction of Paris.

    In a quarter of an hour he was entering the house in the Rue
    du Helder. As he alighted, he thought he saw his father's
    pale face behind the curtain of the count's bedroom. Albert
    turned away his head with a sigh, and went to his own
    apartments. He cast one lingering look on all the luxuries
    which had rendered life so easy and so happy since his
    infancy; he looked at the pictures, whose faces seemed to
    smile, and the landscapes, which appeared painted in
    brighter colors. Then he took away his mother's portrait,
    with its oaken frame, leaving the gilt frame from which he
    took it black and empty. Then he arranged all his beautiful
    Turkish arms, his fine English guns, his Japanese china, his
    cups mounted in silver, his artistic bronzes by Feucheres
    and Barye; examined the cupboards, and placed the key in
    each; threw into a drawer of his secretary, which he left
    open, all the pocket-money he had about him, and with it the
    thousand fancy jewels from his vases and his jewel-boxes;
    then he made an exact inventory of everything, and placed it
    in the most conspicuous part of the table, after putting
    aside the books and papers which had collected there.

    At the beginning of this work, his servant, notwithstanding
    orders to the contrary, came to his room. "What do you
    want?" asked he, with a more sorrowful than angry tone.
    "Pardon me, sir," replied the valet; "you had forbidden me
    to disturb you, but the Count of Morcerf has called me."

    "Well!" said Albert.

    "I did not like to go to him without first seeing you."

    "Why?"

    "Because the count is doubtless aware that I accompanied you
    to the meeting this morning."

    "It is probable," said Albert.

    "And since he has sent for me, it is doubtless to question
    me on what happened there. What must I answer?"

    "The truth."

    "Then I shall say the duel did not take place?"

    "You will say I apologized to the Count of Monte Cristo.
    Go."

    The valet bowed and retired, and Albert returned to his
    inventory. As he was finishing this work, the sound of
    horses prancing in the yard, and the wheels of a carriage
    shaking his window, attracted his attention. He approached
    the window, and saw his father get into it, and drive away.
    The door was scarcely closed when Albert bent his steps to
    his mother's room; and, no one being there to announce him,
    he advanced to her bed-chamber, and distressed by what he
    saw and guessed, stopped for one moment at the door. As if
    the same idea had animated these two beings, Mercedes was
    doing the same in her apartments that he had just done in
    his. Everything was in order, -- laces, dresses, jewels,
    linen, money, all were arranged in the drawers, and the
    countess was carefully collecting the keys. Albert saw all
    these preparations and understood them, and exclaiming, "My
    mother!" he threw his arms around her neck.

    The artist who could have depicted the expression of these
    two countenances would certainly have made of them a
    beautiful picture. All these proofs of an energetic
    resolution, which Albert did not fear on his own account,
    alarmed him for his mother. "What are you doing?" asked he.

    "What were you doing?" replied she.

    "Oh, my mother!" exclaimed Albert, so overcome he could
    scarcely speak; "it is not the same with you and me -- you
    cannot have made the same resolution I have, for I have come
    to warn you that I bid adieu to your house, and -- and to
    you."

    "I also," replied Mercedes, "am going, and I acknowledge I
    had depended on your accompanying me; have I deceived
    myself?"

    "Mother," said Albert with firmness. "I cannot make you
    share the fate I have planned for myself. I must live
    henceforth without rank and fortune, and to begin this hard
    apprenticeship I must borrow from a friend the loaf I shall
    eat until I have earned one. So, my dear mother, I am going
    at once to ask Franz to lend me the small sum I shall
    require to supply my present wants."

    "You, my poor child, suffer poverty and hunger? Oh, do not
    say so; it will break my resolutions."

    "But not mine, mother," replied Albert. "I am young and
    strong; I believe I am courageous, and since yesterday I
    have learned the power of will. Alas, my dear mother, some
    have suffered so much, and yet live, and have raised a new
    fortune on the ruin of all the promises of happiness which
    heaven had made them -- on the fragments of all the hope
    which God had given them! I have seen that, mother; I know
    that from the gulf in which their enemies have plunged them
    they have risen with so much vigor and glory that in their
    turn they have ruled their former conquerors, and have
    punished them. No. mother; from this moment I have done with
    the past, and accept nothing from it -- not even a name,
    because you can understand that your son cannot bear the
    name of a man who ought to blush for it before another."

    "Albert, my child," said Mercedes, "if I had a stronger
    heart that is the counsel I would have given you; your
    conscience has spoken when my voice became too weak; listen
    to its dictates. You had friends, Albert; break off their
    acquaintance. But do not despair; you have life before you,
    my dear Albert, for you are yet scarcely twenty-two years
    old; and as a pure heart like yours wants a spotless name,
    take my father's -- it was Herrera. I am sure, my dear
    Albert, whatever may be your career, you will soon render
    that name illustrious. Then, my son, return to the world
    still more brilliant because of your former sorrows; and if
    I am wrong, still let me cherish these hopes, for I have no
    future to look forward to. For me the grave opens when I
    pass the threshold of this house."

    "I will fulfil all your wishes, my dear mother," said the
    young man. "Yes, I share your hopes; the anger of heaven
    will not pursue us, since you are pure and I am innocent.
    But, since our resolution is formed, let us act promptly. M.
    de Morcerf went out about half an hour ago; the opportunity
    in favorable to avoid an explanation."

    "I am ready, my son," said Mercedes. Albert ran to fetch a
    carriage. He recollected that there was a small furnished
    house to let in the Rue de Saints Peres, where his mother
    would find a humble but decent lodging, and thither he
    intended conducting the countess. As the carriage stopped at
    the door, and Albert was alighting, a man approached and
    gave him a letter. Albert recognized the bearer. "From the
    count," said Bertuccio. Albert took the letter, opened, and
    read it, then looked round for Bertuccio, but he was gone.
    He returned to Mercedes with tears in his eyes and heaving
    breast, and without uttering a word he gave her the letter.
    Mercedes read: --

    Albert, -- While showing you that I have discovered your
    plans, I hope also to convince you of my delicacy. You are
    free, you leave the count's house, and you take your mother
    to your home; but reflect, Albert, you owe her more than
    your poor noble heart can pay her. Keep the struggle for
    yourself, bear all the suffering, but spare her the trial of
    poverty which must accompany your first efforts; for she
    deserves not even the shadow of the misfortune which has
    this day fallen on her, and providence is not willing that
    the innocent should suffer for the guilty. I know you are
    going to leave the Rue du Helder without taking anything
    with you. Do not seek to know how I discovered it; I know it
    -- that is sufficient.

    Now, listen, Albert. Twenty-four years ago I returned, proud
    and joyful, to my country. I had a betrothed, Albert, a
    lovely girl whom I adored, and I was bringing to my
    betrothed a hundred and fifty louis, painfully amassed by
    ceaseless toil. This money was for her; I destined it for
    her, and, knowing the treachery of the sea I buried our
    treasure in the little garden of the house my father lived
    in at Marseilles, on the Allees de Meillan. Your mother,
    Albert, knows that poor house well. A short time since I
    passed through Marseilles, and went to see the old place,
    which revived so many painful recollections; and in the
    evening I took a spade and dug in the corner of the garden
    where I had concealed my treasure. The iron box was there --
    no one had touched it -- under a beautiful fig-tree my
    father had planted the day I was born, which overshadowed
    the spot. Well, Albert, this money, which was formerly
    designed to promote the comfort and tranquillity of the
    woman I adored, may now, through strange and painful
    circumstances, be devoted to the same purpose. Oh, feel for
    me, who could offer millions to that poor woman, but who
    return her only the piece of black bread forgotten under my
    poor roof since the day I was torn from her I loved. You are
    a generous man, Albert, but perhaps you may be blinded by
    pride or resentment; if you refuse me, if you ask another
    for what I have a right to offer you, I will say it is
    ungenerous of you to refuse the life of your mother at the
    hands of a man whose father was allowed by your father to
    die in all the horrors of poverty and despair.

    Albert stood pale and motionless to hear what his mother
    would decide after she had finished reading this letter.
    Mercedes turned her eyes with an ineffable look towards
    heaven. "I accept it," said she; "he has a right to pay the
    dowry, which I shall take with me to some convent!" Putting
    the letter in her bosom, she took her son's arm, and with a
    firmer step than she even herself expected she went
    down-stairs.
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